The 6-2, 255-pound senior from Laie, Hawaii, became the 20th winner of the trophy, which annually is awarded to the best defensive player in college football as voted upon by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Te'o received the award on Monday night at a banquet at the Westin Hotel that is sponsored by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

"It's definitely a great accomplishment for me." Te'o said after receiving the trophy. "I've ways wanted to be the best. For this to happen helps me to know I'm heading in the right direction. The formula is the same: Hard work leads to success as long as I keep doing it."

Coincidentally, his head coach, Brian Kelly, was the keynote speaker at the banquet. Te'o is the first Notre Dame player to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and only the second finalist from the school.

"He's unique," Kelly said. "I would say that the one thing that stands out to me is with all the things that have gone on off the field and all of the hype and all of the All-American and Heisman talk, he gets better each week. It's amazing to me. ... He just goes to class, handles all this (interviews), and then plays really well on Saturdays."

Te'o is only the second player in Notre Dame history to record 100 tackles in three straight seasons. He also has set a Notre Dame record for interceptions this season for a linebacker with seven. That ties for the second best interception total in the country. Furthermore, he has made 46 straight starts at linebacker, which is the longest at the position in major-college football.

"I think after his first year here it was, 'Hey we need more from you. You're such a great leader. You're respected.'" Kelly said. "He didn't really feel it was his place to tell others how to do things. ... He needed to hold other players to the higher level that he has for himself. ... Once he started to take to that kind of philosophy, you could see everyone else around him raise their level of play."

Behind Te'o, Notre Dame leads the country in fewest points allowed per game (10.33 per game). Te'o has played some of his best games in Notre Dame's biggest games this season:

• He had a season-high 12 tackles and one fumble recovery in Notre Dame's 20-3 victory over Michigan State, ranked 10th at the time.

• In a 13-6 victory at then-No. 18 Michigan, Te'o had eight tackles and two interceptions and was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

• In another Notre Dame victory, 30-13, at then-No. 8 Oklahoma, Te'o registered 11 tackles, one sack for minus-nine yards and made an interception. The 13 points the Irish allowed equaled the second-lowest total the Sooners had scored at Owen Field during the Bob Stoops era.

• Against then-No. 17 Stanford, Te'o addressed his defensive teammates in overtime just before the Cardinal lined up for a potential game-tying touchdown on fourth and goal from the one-yard line. "I love you guys, no matter what happens," Te'o told his teammates. The Irish stopped the Cardinal on fourth down and preserved their undefeated season with a 20-13 victory.

Te'o's efforts certainly mirror the person for whom the trophy is named. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is given in memory of the legendary Nagurski, a former All-American lineman at Minnesota (1927-29).

Nagurski was a farm boy of Ukrainian and Polish stock who developed his body by pulling a plow. He was discovered, legend has it, by Minnesota coach "Doc" Spears, who stopped by a farm field in International Falls, Minnesota near the Canadian border and asked directions from a big kid plowing a field without a horse. The kid showed Spears where he wanted to go by picking up the plow in one hand and pointing it in the direction Spears was heading.

Nagurski dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle and could have been an All-America at any position. He then became a star for professional football's Chicago Bears in the 1930s.

Nebraska defensive tackle Larry Jacobson received the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, presented by Florida East Coast Railway. Jacobson was a member of the 1971 FWAA's All-America Team and the Outland Trophy winner that season. Each year the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club honor one of the defensive legends from a past FWAA All-America team, a tradition which began with the 1966 team and works its way forward each year.

The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C. region. The club's activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). The NCFAA was founded in 1997 as a coalition of the major collegiate football awards to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of the game's predominant awards. The NCFAA encourages professionalism and the highest standards for the administration of its member awards and the selection of their candidates and recipients. For more information, visit the association's official Web site,

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization
founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 men and women who cover college football
for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists,
as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works
to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America
team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve
Richardson at or 972-713-6198.