SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Aaron Lynch would often call Manti Te'o his big brother, the two most talented Notre Dame defensive recruits in years bonding over the high expectations and even the distance away from home that each had to deal with in college.
So Te'o was a little surprised once he heard the news Friday that Lynch would be transferring at semester's end. But the linebacker knows there is a line that should not be crossed, and he is protective of his former teammate when it comes to the vitriol Lynch has dealt with from outsiders in light of his decision to go to another school.
"It hurt, because like I said, I cared about Aaron the kid, not the player," Te'o said. "Everybody else cares about what he does and it's obvious, because the poor kid is getting heat. That's not fair. That's not fair for a 19-year-old to be hounded by people online on his Facebook and stuff like that. So as an older brother I look at that and I'm just there for him — 'Hey, don't read that stuff. Just you do what you've got to do. And your family here at Notre Dame will always love you no matter what.' And he knows that, and like I said, I'm going to miss the kid."
Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who had been working with the second team this spring, will move into Lynch's spot. The fifth-year senior started a majority of the past three seasons for the Irish anyway, though he missed the last six games of 2011 because of a right knee injury.
"It's always shocking when you have somebody that talented leaving this university," Lewis-Moore said. "We're really going to miss Aaron, but at the same time we wish him the best. But we've got to kind of move on from that, there's no hard feelings."
Kelly said several times following Saturday's practice — the team's first since Lynch announced he would transfer — that the transition without the 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end had been "seamless."
The third-year Irish coach acknowledged that the balance of coaching football and playing team psychologist is part of his job description, something he has gotten used to doing every day in what is going on a 22-year college head-coaching career.
"They're 18-21 year-olds, and they're going to have good days and bad days, so I think I'm constantly trying to be in touch with it," Kelly said. "I know our coaches try really hard, but that social worker, that psychologist, I think that all goes into being a good coach and a good teacher."
Lynch, who had not been shy in acknowledging the difficulties of his transition to college in a new region, is likely transferring to a school closer to his hometown of Cape Coral, Fla.,
Te'o dealt with many similar challenges upon his arrival to Notre Dame three years ago, especially coming all the way from Laie, Hawaii.
"When I was young there were many times after practice where I just said, 'I don't want to be here,' you know what I mean?" Te'o recalled. "But it's a growing process, you have to mature. It's hard. I think it's hard wherever you go, whether you're at Notre Dame, you're at USC — you're away from home. And for a young 18-, 19-year old, not being able to come home and see Mom and Dad and your siblings and have a home-cooked meal waiting for you, and coming here and you finish practice and you have to find out, what are you going to eat? Where am I going to go? Do I got to wash my clothes? Do I got to wash the dishes?
"It's a culture shock, so there were those days though. Fortunately for me, I just fought through it and I stuck it out, and that's one thing I want my little brother to experience. I wanted him to stick it out and reap the benefits of sticking it out and being here at Notre Dame and taking care of his family, but I know he'll take care of his family wherever he goes."