No one in the Notre Dame locker room knew how Manti Te’O would respond, Saturday night, as the Irish took the field against Michigan State. No one would have blamed them if the defensive leader and team captain decided to sit this game out. And no one knew how heavy the pain weighed on the heart of Manti.
During the course of 48 hours, the senior linebacker said goodbye to both his grandmother and girlfriend (leukemia). It was the hardest week of the young man’s life. But to Manti, there was never any doubt that he would play Saturday night.
Coaches told him that he could home if he needed to. Manti’s response? “What I need right now is to be with my guys.” And the golden domes thank Football Jesus that he did. As USA Today shared, the team practice together, mourned together, and got ready to play.
On Saturday night, in their toughest test of this early season, the Fighting Irish didn’t budge on defense. They completely shut down the top ten Michigan State Spartans and played with a passion and fire lit by Manti. Notre Dame held Michigan State to under seven points at home – the first time that has happened in 21 years.
It was more than a game for Manti Saturday. It was the opportunity to play with reckless abandon for two of the women he loved most with the teammates he treasures as family. It was a special moment born out of tremendous pain. And it very well may have been the start of a dramatic run by the Fighting Irish this college football season.