Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o had a big season, and thanks in part to his efforts, the Irish are playing in the 2013 BCS Championship game. It's also been a season afflicted with tragedy, with Te'o losing two special women in the course of a single week, making his story one of college football's most inspirational.
Te'o was a mainstay from day one at Notre Dame, starting 10 games as a freshman. He recorded 63 tackles that season, but his production would increase considerably over the coming years. He finished his sophomore year with 133 tackles, and followed that up with 128 tackles in his junior year. The national recognition began to build at that point, as he was named a second team All-American by several different outlets.
Te'o could have entered the NFL Draft following that junior season, but he decided instead to come back for his final year of eligibility, and that paid off for him in the form of a highly decorated senior season. His return didn't hurt his draft stock, either.
Te'o finished the 2012 season with 103 tackles, which led the Irish by a wide margin. He also intercepted seven passes, which ranks second nationally. Sixteen FBS teams intercepted fewer than seven passes this season.
He also earned a number of accolades for his play on the field -- he was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the recipient of the Nagurski, Butkus, Maxwell and Bednarik Awards. Additionally, he was a unanimous first-team All-American selection, becoming the 33rd Irish player to accomplish that feat.
Now Te'o can wrap up a big year with a national championship, which would be Notre Dame's first since 1988. And he'll eventually be moving on to the pro ranks, as he is considered one of the top propsects in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Check out some highlights from Te'o's final year with the Irish below.