Nov. 2, 2011
Q. Coach Kelly has not lost in November. Just wonder if I can get your perspective on what you think maybe the keys are or the keys were to your success last year at the end of the year, and Coach Kelly’s success in November, starting with you, Harrison, please.
Harrison Smith: Just the way that we prepare in the off season really is, we build up to this point. We don’t try to peak summer or peak right as the season starts. We want to peak in November.
Just kind of it’s just the whole program really. You can’t really point to one specific thing, but just the way practices run, the way we work out, trying to get us more sleep instead of keeping us up and grinding us throughout the whole year, things like that.
Q. Manti, I don’t know what your nutrition was before the arrival of the nutritionists, but that seems to be a greater emphasis now. What role do you think that has played in helping you guys progress through the season? Manti Te’o: Definitely Erika (Whitman) and Kayla (Matrunick) have done a great job in really supporting Coach (Longo). He always tells us that if we don’t take care of our bodies, outside of this complex, if we don’t eat the foods that we should be eating, all of the work we are putting in in the football field and the weight room is nothing. He has always referred us to Erika and Kayla to get our nutrition straight and then just take advantage of the time and the work that we put in.
Q. Talking to Theo (Riddick) and Jonas (Gray) yesterday, they emphasized the cold tubs and helping them recover; Jonas does it three times a day. Have you found that’s helped you in your recovery and kept you healthy and strong through the season?
Manti Te’o: I think so. We are just trying to just utilize anything that can give us that edge, to give us that edge better and to get us ready for the games. So the cold plunge, nutrition, training tables; Coach Kelly implemented all of these things to help us win.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, I actually just jumped right out of the cold tub. Whenever there’s an extra five or ten minutes, I try to jump in there, because it helps you recover so fast. So it definitely makes a difference.
Q. Did you guys not do that before in the previous regime? You had that available to you, didn’t you?
Harrison Smith: We did, but now we have a big one in the locker room. Coach said if you’re going to the shower or whatever, you need to jump in. It’s kind of I guess more convenient.
Q. Harrison, before the game last week, you were down on the field getting guys fired up. Some of the guys yesterday said Coach Kelly brought that up after USC; can you talk about that change, what it means and why it’s important, and to say it over and over and over again?
Harrison Smith: I think it just kind of emphasizes that each person has a responsibility within the team and you know, that you should be counted on to do your job. So it’s really just kind of a responsibility thing. And it’s a constant reminder that you need to do your job within this organization.
Q. Did guys kind of need that reminder and do you think that’s kind of helped?
Harrison Smith: I mean, I think sometimes, especially the way things are going during the season, there’s a lot of different things going on you and kind of lose place of what really matters and what really helps you win. And so I think that reminder is good for the team, just, you know, to focus on what’s really important.
Q. For Manti, what does that mean for you specifically? What do you want guys to feel they can count on you for?
Manti Te’o: I think for me, that saying just means to do be accountable; to do things right and to have your teammates know that he’s the guy that does things right and he’s the guy that I can trust and he’s the guy that I can go to, and basically that I can count on him. I can count on him in the game and I can count on him to help me if I have any social problems, problems in school. It extends farther than the football field. You’re calling on each other in whatever way we can.
Q. Theo said that for him maybe that meant watching more film and Jonas said for him, maybe trying to be a bit better of a leader. What does it mean above and beyond for your guys? Have you done anything differently to be more accountable?
Manti Te’o: I think it’s different for everybody. Everybody sees different things in their game that they can improve on, and improving on things can help the team win.
So they count on me and the things that Coach Kelly told us about that saying has really kind of opened our eyes and with everybody and trying to be accountable.
Q. Changing gears entirely, the offense, T.J. is kind of an understated weapon for you guys. Can you just talk about going against him in practice, what kind of challenges he presents to a defense and what his strengths are?
Harrison Smith: He’s a talented kid and he fits into his position very well. He can get in there in the slot and make plays. Just because he runs very crisp routes, he’ll go across the middle and he’ll make those tough plays that you kind of need that spot to make.
Q. Going across the middle, you guys are in the middle, are you making some shots on him? I guess talk about that; ARE you required to do that for a receiver?
Manti Te’o: I don’t think that we have gotten shots on him. We understand that there’s a time and place for everything, and if your teammate is coming across the middle and he can’t protect himself, you know, I say it wouldn’t be wise to take him out because you need him on Saturday.
But T.J. has demonstrated that in the game. He’s had big catches both this year and last year, catches across the middle when he got hit and he just stood right backup. He’s fearless and he has courage and he goes out there and he gets after the ball.
Q. First time in a while we’ve talked to you since USC. Can you just talk about the last ten days and the mental approach? Guys have talked about your refocusing after USC. Can you give us an overview, and walk us through your last ten days mentally I guess.
Manti Te’o: It’s been a roller coaster. Everybody takes lessons certain ways but I think Harry can say the same thing. It’s been a roller coaster. I just have to settle down and just get back to work and forget about USC. We have a 24 hour rule and after that 24 hours after the game, it was all about Navy.
Q. How would you describe your mood after the USC game?
Manti Te’o: To be honest with you, I don’t really remember. I just wanted to get back and get back to work and watch film, correct mistakes and move on.
Q. Guys said they saw you pretty locked in. Jonas talked about building up for you that week.
Manti Te’o: You know to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not that much of a yeller. I’m not that much of a rah rah kind of guy. I was never that type of player. But I found myself being more of a rah rah type of guy and trying to get everybody pumped. I think that by trying to be that kind of player that I lost who I was.
So I told Coach Diaco before the game, I said, Coach, I hope you don’t mind but I’m just going to be pretty quiet. I’m going to be humble and I’m not going to say anything that much; if I need to say something, I’m going to say it. But I’m not going to yell and I’m not going to try to get everybody pumped up.
And it worked out well, because our captain, our leader, Harrison, said the things he needed to say before the games and got everybody going and got me going and really helped me to focus even more. So I guess that’s what they are talking about is just how I didn’t say much and I was focusing on every single snap and just trying to help my team win.
Q. The confusion that there was amongst you guys, everybody talked about the game on Saturday, that that happened Thursday night and Friday, how did you process it? The confusion that you had as a team on Thursday that you hashed out in that team meeting on Friday before the game, how do you personally process that?
Manti Te’o: I’m going to be honest, I was hurt. But like everybody said, this is a family, and we deal with it as a family and we dealt with it on Friday. Everything was fine and everything is back to normal. We walked back in on Saturday ready to play against Navy. I think we demonstrated that no matter what happens, nothing can break apart a family.
Q. You’re up for the Bednarik Award, and this is one of four awards you’re up for. Can you talk about defensive Player of the Year and being one of the top 16 finalists? It has to be humbling, but at the same time quite an honor.
Manti Te’o: You know, for me it’s not it’s never about me, you know what I mean.
Without the guys in front of me, I couldn’t make the plays I make. Without Harrison behind me, I couldn’t make the plays that I’ve made. This guy to my right could just be on the same list as I am, you know what I mean.
So for me to represent, not only myself, my family, but the players that I play with, my teammates, my brothers, that’s what makes me happy.
Definitely I’m humbled, but without the guys around me, without Coach Diaco and Coach Martin and Coach Cooks, Coach Elston, all of those guys that prepare us week in and week out, I would not be where I’m at right now. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. For me to take all of the credit, it wouldn’t be right.
So I’m very humbled and I feel very lucky to be mentioned with the names there; but to be mentioned with all of those top players, I’m definitely humbled.
Q. Did you envision anything like that? I know you had so many accolades coming out of high school. But did you think about that at all, like, I want to be the best college football defensive player?
Manti Te’o: I still want to be the best college football player. I didn’t focus on the accolades. I didn’t focus on all of those things. I just wanted to be not for myself, the best player that I can possibly be. And you know, everybody has accolades, and Harrison was invited to the Senior Bowl and so that speaks volumes about us and about Harrison and just about our defense and our team.
So you know, definitely I came in trying to be the best who I could be.
Q. With more awards and national attention, I think it will bring out more speculation about your future. Could that become a distraction or do you even think about that or talk about that at this point?
Manti Te’o: No. If that becomes a distraction, that shows that my mind is not in the right place. My mind is on this team.
My mind is on Harrison, Darius (Fleming), Kap (Lewis-Moore), Ethan (Johnson), all of those guys and winning. That’s what I owe them; I owe them my best effort, my best play. And you know, Harrison has one more game left in that stadium, and my whole deal is to send him out a winner.
I’ve been here my freshman year when I didn’t send out Jimmy (Clausen) a winner and that hurt for me. That hurt. So I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that doesn’t repeat with Harrison.
Q. And Harrison, could you talk about that, just it’s got to be a great compliment to you that he is being up for a lot of awards, yet he’s pulling for you guys.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, that’s the kind of guy Manti is; that’s the type of player he is; the type of guy off the field. That doesn’t surprise me at all about him. That’s just the way he is. He never put himself first. He always puts the team first and he puts our defense first. It’s been an honor to play with a guy like him.
Q. Coach Diaco yesterday kind of was explaining your performance against Navy saying that you were kind of healthy enough to prepare all week. What’s been going on physically? Sounds like you’ve had to stay out of practice somewhat and not be quite as vocal, just bumps and bruises or something specific.
Manti Te’o: You know, it’s just been injuries, lingering injuries. I’ve been trying to fight through it. I’ve been getting treatment and doing whatever I can physically out on the practice field.
It’s definitely hard for me, because I look at it as, you know, No. 5 is not practicing, but he’s also playing. And I look at it from the eyes of my teammates, and I wouldn’t want that, for my teammates to see that.
Basically I try to prepare myself mentally as much as I can and I try to watch a lot of film, and with Harrison, watching film Harrison watches so much film it’s crazy.
He and I, I try to prepare with him, ask him what he’s seen out there in practice and listen to the coaches, what they are saying and ask the guys out there who are practicing, what they are saying; so that it’s not such a shock when I get out there on game day.
Q. How are you feeling now?
Manti Te’o: Yeah, I’m feeling a lot more healthy. Every day that goes by, you know, every day, every time I get treatment, I feel healthier and healthier, so it’s good.