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The term is synonymous with a Notre Dame linebacker who came out of President Obama’s school.
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There are, of course, the intangibles, the difficult-to-measure metrics. Football is a team sport. No player can achieve much without successful teammates. For example, rookie quarterbacks are typically drafted onto failing NFL teams that have poor offensive lines. (So, it is odd that a December 15 Washington Post story on this year’s stellar NFL rookie quarterbacks failed to mention their offensive lines.) Te’o, a team captain, led the No. 1 defense in the country: No. 1 in points allowed per game (10.3), No. 6 in yards/game allowed, No. 17 in turnover margin per game, No. 18 with 34 sacks for the season, No. 19 with 16 interceptions.
The Notre Dame-Alabama BCS National Championship on Monday, January 7, promises to be a defensive struggle. Alabama’s defense is ranked No. 2. The game will be held in Sun Life Stadium. Although it is an outdoor stadium, one can hope that the game will not be a soaked slugfest like the “mud bowl” of the November 2007 match between the Steelers and the Dolphins in Pittsburgh, won by the Steelers 3-0 on a field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame has played in some huge defensive struggles, including the scoreless tie against Army in 1946, the 10-10 tie against Michigan State in 1966, the 3-0 win over LSU in 1970.
Te’o is eligible for one more award following the game. An MVP is awarded to an offensive player and to a defensive player. Even should Notre Dame lose, he could garner the award, just as Chuck Howley, a Dallas Cowboys linebaker, won the 1971 Super Bowl MVP although Dallas lost.