Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o didn't just persevere during a challenging time – He thrived.
The senior captain had two big games after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend three weeks ago.
Te'o's performances against Michigan State and Michigan, in which he had 20 tackles, two interceptions and recovered a fumble, started a Heisman Trophy buzz around the linebacker and landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
And during the off week, Te'o got to go home and recharge and morn before the No. 9 Irish (4-0) dive back into the season Saturday night againstMiami(4-1) atChicago's Soldier Field.
"I think any time you get a chance to be around family at that time, there is probably some closure to it which allows you to continue on in the grieving process," coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. "So I think it's just another step for Manti, and (receiver Robby Toma) being there, obviously, close to the family. I think they were able to bring some closure and move on to the next challenge."
If Te'o continues his production this season – he has 38 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries – he could challenge for the Heisman Trophy.
And Kelly didn't try to down play talk about Te'o grabbing college football's top award.
"What is the definition of a Heisman Trophy candidate?" Kelly said. "If you go with he has to be a quarterback or an offensive player, well, I don't think he plays on offense.
"But if you're looking for one of the best, if not the best college football players that impacts your program … You're also judged by how you impact your team and what you do on the defensive side of the ball. So Heisman Trophy, MVP, top collegiate player, we think he fits those categories."