Oct. 17, 2012
Q. Manti, could you a talk about the LDS community. What’s it’s been like for you during the four years here and the support you get from them?
Manti Te’o: Very supportive, just like I’ve known ever since I was young just obviously not in Hawaii. But it’s very supportive and very helpful and people have just always been there for me. I’m really fortunate to have that.
Q. Got a lot of questions from the Utah media this week. They wonder about the connection with the LDS church, is this a bigger game for you, a more emotional game for you?
Manti Te’o: No, it’s just game seven. I think I said this before: When you start to do things differently than you’ve done in the past, then bad things start to happen. I’ve been there before. I’ve made the mistake of being overly excited for a game and it hurt me. So fortunately for me, I’ve been there, done that. That’s a mistake that won’t happen again.
Q. This game is sandwiched between Stanford and Oklahoma. A lot people have called this a trap game. How do you avoid falling into that trap?
Manti Te’o: I think it’s only a trap game if you’re dealing with a young team, a team that is not focused on one singular goal, and that’s to take that day by day, week by week. So our team has done a great job of just focusing on the next opponent. We don’t have Oklahoma this week. We don’t have Stanford. We already played Stanford. Right now it’s BYU, and that’s all we’re focused on. Until Sunday comes, we’ll stop focusing on BYU. Until then, it’s all BYU.
Q. Quick question on the Stanford game. Seemed like after re watching it it was more physical than any of the games you’ve played to this point. Did it feel that way to you on the field, or did it feel like a normal game?
Manti Te’o: I think I felt the majority of that on Sunday when I woke up. I could barely get up. But that’s a good feeling. It shows that that was football. It was a good game. It was a great game. It was a college football classic game, and I’m grateful to be part of that. Glad that my body a starting to recover.
Q. Being here at Notre Dame, there is a weight to win, the expectation to win. I know you still have a lot of wins you want to get and a lot of seasons left. How does it feel to have the excitement back here at Notre Dame about the football team?
Manti Te’o: I think it’s great. I think it’s great to be 6 0 and to have that excitement on campus. But as we’ve talked as a team, we haven’t done anything yet. Like I said, we’re 6 0, we’re not 12 0 yet. The next step is to be 7 0 and then 8 0 and so on and so forth. So we haven’t done anything yet. We’re going to continue to get better and work hard every day to make sure that when Saturdays comes that we’re prepared.
Q. Could you talk about the impact that guys like Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis Moore have on you?
Manti Te’o: My success has a direct correlation to how they do. If I have a strong defensive line in front of me my job is 100 times easier. If I don’t have a strong defensive line, it’s very hard for a linebacker to do well. So fortunately for me, I have three guys in front of me, actually, six guys, the guys who rotate in. I have those guys, and they’re led by I think one of the best coaches, D line coaches in the country with Coach (Mike) Elston. They have a lot of energy. They play with a lot of energy and intensity. Offenses have to respect that. You have to respect the guys up front. The guys on the second level, like myself, it makes our job a lot easier.
Q. What are you dealing with if they’re not doing their job?
Manti Te’o: A lot of offensive linemen, and that’s a linebackers worst nightmare is when you have linemen in your face immediately and guys just climbing up to you and you have to fight. That’s not fun.
Q. How much of an opportunity or how inclined are you to watch other college football games? There was one on last night.
Manti Te’o: To be honest with you, I haven’t watched a full college game this year. I’ve watched highlights, quarters, but for me, as a college player, I try to stay away from that. My eyes are trained for BYU. My eyes are used to seeing BYU play. My eyes are used to seeing what BYU runs in certain formations. I try to stay away from just seeing things. I want to be as focused as I can. Everybody does different things. That’s one thing that I try to avoid.
Q. When you do catch a quarter here or there, do you watch it like a fan or like a linebacker?
Manti Te’o: I think I can’t avoid watching it like a linebacker. I tend to try and read the offense and anticipate what they’re going to run from where I’m sitting. But when I’m not watching my game, I try to watch it as a fan and enjoy it.
Q. You see technique, sloppy tackling?
Manti Te’o: Correct, correct.
Q. I know earlier in your career there was a lot of emphasis on finding the balance of flying the football, but when you get there be in a position to make a tackle. How do you fly the football, play to the football, but be in the position to make that tackle?
Manti Te’o: It’s not about the opportunity, if it presents itself. There is a time and place for everything. There is a time and place for everything. It all depends how big the hole is, where you are on the field. If you’re in open field, obviously you don’t want to try and really hit the guy hard. You just want to get to the guy to the ground. But if it’s a small window and you think you can make a run for it, then go ahead. It’s a feel thing.
Q. Last thing, different topic: Coach Kelly commented a couple weeks ago that you know all the walk on players’ names. Why do you do that and why is that important?
Manti Te’o: It stems back to when I was young. I’ve never liked when people were alone or just felt left out, because I know how that felt. I was always that kid that was left out. I never wanted somebody to feel that way. I never wanted somebody eating by themselves. So as a walk on, it’s one thing to come in here as a freshman, a scholarship player; it’s another thing to come in as a walk on. These guys, I think these guys on a weekly basis put in more work than we do. They’re the show team and they’re getting out and getting hit. It’s a hard job. They don’t get any rest. So they’re part of my team and my family. If you’re part of my family, I’m going to try to get to know you besides your name.
Q. How much energy does Kap (Kapron Lewis-Moore) bring to the defense?
Manti Te’o: Kap brings a lot of energy. He’s funny, so he brings that kind of energy, and then he’s serious at the same time. He brings a lot of energy. For the most part we have a young line, but he’s that guy that kind of leads them, shows them how to do things. He’s that guy that makes that group run. So Kap, there is the reason why he’s the captain on our team.
Q. How does that energy show up?
Manti Te’o: Kap, you know, well, when he feels that there is not as much energy, he’s the guy that steps out in front and really gets guys going. When we’re in a huddle or something, he’ll get guys going like that. When he makes a play, if you watch, every time somebody makes a play, you always will see 89 in there congratulating his teammate. He energizes the group in so many ways.
Q. Did you ever expect you would get Tweeted at by (WWE professional wrestler) John Cena?
Manti Te’o: I didn’t know. I was working out, and then I came in and Tyler Stockton, was riding around in a golf not a golf cart, the little carts up and down just playing around. He’s like, Bro, you’re an American hero. I’m like, What are you talking about? He was like, John Cena Tweeted at you. I immediately sprinted into the locker room to check it out.
Q. What do you know about it?
Manti Te’o: I know a lot about it. I mean, obviously wrestling and WWE, I was a big WWE fan when I was little. The Rock is my favorite wrestler, and Goldberg. You know, I know a lot about it.
Q. Talk about (Tyler) Eifert. He’s a quiet guy. How do you see him as a leader?
Manti Te’o: Eif is one of those guys that’s very dependable. He’s not a mean player. He’s not a selfish player. Obviously Eif is the best tight end in college football. He hasn’t had the kind of receptions and numbers that he would like, but you never would see Tyler complaining. As long as we’re winning, he’s happy. He leads by example. He leads by his work ethic, and just really, really doing his best to ensure that our team wins.
Q. Can you just talk about the continued success of this defense and the touchdown streak and how much pride you take in the fact that you haven’t given up a touchdown in a month?
Manti Te’o: Our main thing is dominating. As defense we want to dominate. We want to dominate opponents. The best way to do that is to keep the points down. Along the way of doing that, we’ve managed to limit those points and the touchdowns. So like I said before, we’re 6 0. We still have half a season to play. So from that perspective we haven’t done anything yet. After the 12th game you can ask me that question and I can tell you how much pride we have in that. We’re going to continue to work hard and correct the mistakes we’ve made. We haven’t given up a touchdown in a month, true. But we’ve also made a lot of mistakes, and mistakes that can be corrected and mistakes that we will correct and hopefully continue to dominate.
Q. Coach Kelly said yesterday that you’re the best leader he’s had in 22 years. How much of a compliment is that for you?
Manti Te’o: That’s a big compliment from Coach Kelly. For me, I just try to instill love. I think as a leader, as a captain, whenever you have guys around you that love you and respect you and that will do anything for you, that’s when you’ll experience a lot of success. I think that as a team we’ve grown that mentality here. We don’t play for ourselves. We play for the guy next to us and this university and our families and friends. So we don’t play for ourselves. I think that’s been the strength of this team.
Q. How important is a reliable guy like Dan Fox for the defense knowing you can count on him?
Manti Te’o: Definitely he’s very important. Dan is somebody who consistently works hard. He doesn’t like to make a mistake. He’s always trying to get better. With him and Carlo there, you know, two really good linebackers who are competing every day and getting each other better, that position is a lot better than where it was last year. It’s going to continue to get better, because we have two guys there who really love to play this game and who really love to try and be the best at it.
Q. Just one wondering if you could recollect your experience when BYU was recruiting you. I know they were kind of down to your final three. What ultimately made you look in a different direction? Can you take us through that?
Manti Te’o: I prayed about it. Everything pointed towards Notre Dame. Obviously Notre Dame is where I came because I felt that I was directed to come here.
Q. Because of your ties through the church to BYU, do you find yourself following them at all or keeping track of any of the players there, anything like that?
Manti Te’o: No. I know a lot of players on the team. My cousin, one of my cousins, plays for them and a couple of my friends, but that’s all I really know about BYU.
Q. You talked a lot about focusing day by day, week by week on BYU. It’s so easy to get distracted these days by anything, Twitter, Facebook, schoolwork. What is it inside of you that allows you to be able to zone in like that?
Manti Te’o: There are guys who love to win, but for me, my hate to lose is greater than my love to win. I hate losing. That’s what drives me. Obviously that happened a lot in my life, and that’s not a feeling that I really enjoy. So I’ve experienced that, and I don’t want to experience it as much. We’re in a situation here now as a team to really avoids that. I’m going to try and do whatever I can to avoid that feeling of walking out of any stadium with that feeling. I would rather be the guy who learns that lesson from watching other teams lose than experience it myself. That’s what drives me.
Q. How do you take that a step further and instill that in your team and be a leader so everyone can focus like that?
Manti Te’o: I think it’s a process. It’s a process. Everybody is different. But I think for the most part, our guys understand that. We don’t want to be that team that has to learn the hard way. We don’t want to be that team that’s on ESPN or any I big headlines of a big upset. We don’t want to be that team. I think those teams are created because they forget how they got here, forget the hard work. It’s easy to do that. It’s easy to forget what got you here through all the attention and excitement that’s around and just the pressures of being in college football. But I think our team and our coaches, we really keep each other level headed and keep each other going. It’s definitely difficult, but I think we have a lot of guys who, for the most part, believe in the same thing.
Q. Regarding Dan Fox, you said the position is better. Coach Kelly mentioned he’s more physical, a better understanding of the defense. Playing next to him, what are the tangible things you see him being better at?
Manti Te’o: You see Dan Fox play, and he doesn’t hesitate. He is a lot more confident in his ability to make plays and comfortable in the scheme. He knows what to do, he knows that the guy next to him is doing, and he knows where I’m going to be. So when you know where your teammates are going to be it, allows to you play a lot faster. So combine that with confidence, you will get Dan Fox’s process throughout his career here at Notre Dame. Heal get better.
>Q. Who is your cousin at BYU?
Manti Te’o: Dre.