Moments after learning that he finished second to Johnny Manziel in the 2012 Heisman Trophy race, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o told reporters he was "motivated" by the runner-up finish. As Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported, the senior linebacker said he would channel the loss into his preparation for the BCS National Championship Game:
"I can't really describe it. I just felt that burn -- hey, gotta get better."
"It's motivation," Te'o said. "I always wanted to be the best. I just use that as motivation to be the best I can be. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do. I'm just excited to get back and get things cracking. ... Go back home, see all my brothers, get back into the groove of things. Get the pads back on, smack around some guys, study a lot of film. That's what I love about all this time, I have weeks and weeks to study film. Usually, I'll have about three days to study film, but now I've got three weeks to study film."
Te'o finished with 321 first place votes and 1,706 total points, markedly behind Manziel. However, his vote total and second-place finish were both high water marks for purely defensive players in Heisman balloting. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein finished third, with 60 first place votes and 894 points.
Te'o, who is the unquestioned leader of a Fighting Irish defense that ranks first nationally in scoring defense, defended teammates who expressed their displeasure with the results on Twitter.
"That's family, man," Te'o said. "That's what families are all about. And that's what our team is all about. ... They all just blew up my phone just now."
Te'o joins a distinguished list of Heisman Trophy runners up that includes John Elway, Peyton Manning and Vince Young, who was the last player to finish second in the Heisman vote and win the BCS National Championship. Te'o and his Notre Dame teammates will have that same opportunity on Jan. 7, 2013, when they face Alabama for the title.