Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o went home this week after playing two games after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend.
The senior's commitment to help the No. 10 Irish improve to 4-0 was no surprise to his teammates.
"He's one of our big brothers because he has been here for a long time," sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt said Wednesday. "He's a leader. He knows offenses very well, and he knows how to put the defense into spots to overcome some of the situations that we are in.
"The situation that he went into was a very tragic situation. All of us prayed for him. He went through a hard time, but we all gave him confidence to keep going. At that time, he may be a little weak inside, but he never showed it out. He always stayed strong, and watching that from him, kept us going strong and kept us every day in practice in going out toward Michigan and playing really hard for him."
Te'o shined in wins over Michigan State and Michigan.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Laie, Hawaii, native had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery in the 20-3 win at Michigan State on Sept. 15.
He followed that up with an eight-tackle, two-interception performance in Saturday night's 13-6 win over Michigan.
Those games earned Te'o back-to-back independent defensive player of the week and Lott IMPACT player of the week honors. He was also named the Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week and the Chuck Bednarik player of the week for this week.
Te'o is also being mentioned as a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy.
"I would say that Manti is the finest football player in America, all positions, all teams," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "And that he's the best football player that I've personally coached."
Diaco also said Te'o is more than a football player.
"He's a unique blend of being able to be kind and good and courteous and warm and friendly when he's not inside the gates or inside the stripe," Diaco said, "and then when he's in there he's an absolute warrior.
"Some warriors have to pretend that they are a different way when they are not in the stripes. And some really good, kind nurtured people have to pretend to be warriors when they are inside the stripes. He doesn't have to pretend in either situation, that's unique."