Manti Te'o still has unfinished business

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Told that there were no more questions for Wednesday's news conference, Manti Te'o let out a brief sigh of relief and uttered "yes."

One could hardly fault the all-everything linebacker for growing weary of answering question after question throughout his four years at Notre Dame, particularly in the lead-up to his final home game this Saturday.

But school officials likely would have had no problem if Te'o stayed up at the podium, front and center, considering just about every word he spoke during the nearly half-hour interview could have doubled as an advertisement for exactly what Notre Dame tries to sell to recruits and regular students alike.

What does Te'o tell potential recruits about the school?

"When you're a champion at other schools you're a champion," he began, "but when you're a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend. It wasn't hard for me to decide. We weren't doing so well, and yet still there were talks about legendary status. Just imagine if you've experienced a successful season what that would look like.

"So the people here, it's a family. It's not a school, it's a family. I've experienced that. I've met people that I used to watch as a little kid, and just being able to shake their hand and to know that they wore the same uniform and helmet and played for the same standards that I play for today is definitely something that you don't experience everywhere else."

And the imprint Te'o hopes to leave behind with the other legends who have walked before him?

"Just one of the best to not only play but to attend this great university," the captain said. "There have been great athletes that have come through here. Just to be mentioned amongst them is what I'm trying to be.

"If you don't do things to be the best at it, why are you doing it? So I'm just trying to be the best. Once I leave here, I hope that the impact I've made not only on the football field but in people's lives will forever be remembered."

Days like this Saturday are as big a reason as any for Te'o's return to school, passing up NFL millions in the process. He wanted to experience the emotion of senior day at Notre Dame Stadium, and he wanted to see the reaction of others, to see if he had made an impact.

Considering nearly 80,000 fans were decked out in leis two months ago against Michigan to support Te'o through the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend, his mission has already been accomplished.

There are still two regular-season games left for him to improve his Heisman Trophy candidacy and to ensure that the Irish finish a perfect 12-0.

Anyone who's seen a glimpse of Te'o these last four years can figure out which he'd prefer.

"I think when my name is being tossed around as a national champion, that's what I'm looking for," Te'o said. "You ask any Heisman winner that wasn't a national champion what they would rather be, and I think they would rather be the latter, a national champion.

"So that's what I want. I rather be holding a crystal ball than a bronze statue. That's just me."