Manti Te'o's girlfriend made him promise not to leave Notre Dame should anything happen to her during the season. All she wanted was some white roses.
So on the day she was buried after a battle with leukemia, Te'o delivered."I sent her roses," the senior captain said Wednesday, "and sent her two picks along with that."
During as deep and as thoughtful of a news conference as one will likely see in college football this season, Te'o recapped a trying three weeks that have seen him lose his grandmother and his girlfriend, jump into the early season Heisman Trophy mix and return home to Hawaii and back following the 4-0 Irish's bye week.
Following Notre Dame's last game, its Sept. 22 win against Michigan, Te'o leaped into the stands with his fellow students, many of whom were wearing leis to celebrate his heritage. With all of this happening on the day of his girlfriend's funeral, Te'o had a difficult time describing the scene, saying he was humbled and at peace with himself.
His second straight strong performance in wake of tragedy lifted the Irish to their best start in 10 years and landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Finally, after staying at school while his loved ones passed -- one of the hardest things he's ever had to do, he said -- Te'o was able to return home to Laie, Hawaii, for a few days during the bye week to spend time with his family.
"The worst thing about it was there was so much food," he said. "They had a lot of food. Luckily for me, I had a little bit more discipline this time. I didn't take too far of a step back. It was just an amazing experience for me to be home to have some closure, to say goodbye to my grandma, to see my family and make sure everyone was OK."
His profile has grown nationally as the Irish prepare for a primetime tilt Saturday with old rival Miami, at Chicago's Soldier Field. Te'o said hearing his name mentioned as a Heisman candidate is "surreal," and he recalled playing as a running back in video games to try to win the trophy virtually.
Through the season's first month, reality isn't too far off.
"Heisman Trophy, MVP, top collegiate player," coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday, "we think he fits those categories."