Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o couldn't be happier with his decision to return for his senior year.
And it is not just because the No. 1 Irish (12-0) will be playing in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami, or that he is a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy and numerous other postseason awards.
"I love Notre Dame," Te'o said Thursday when he received the Awards and Recognition Association sportsmanship award. "I love this place. This place is not a school, it's a family. It's a place you'll always be connected with and welcome the rest of your life. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else and I can't picture myself anywhere else but here, under the dome, and with my teammates and just experiencing everything. I'm definitely going to miss this place."
The university will miss the senior from Hawaii as well.
"Preeminent sports brands are rare. Even rarer, is an athlete that perfectly captures the essence of a sports program," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "I can think of very few, maybe a Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, maybe a Derek Jeter in New York, maybe a Bill Bradley at Princeton. But in the history of sports it's rare. We have been incredibly privileged at the University of Notre Dame, during the past four years, culminating in this year, to have a student-athlete who so perfectly captures the values of the institution."