Manti Te’o put his best foot forward in 2015.
After back-to-back seasons of dealing with broken bones in both of his feet – first his right, then his left – Te’o had no foot issues and blossomed in 2015. Te’o led the Chargers with 107 tackles for his first 100-tackle season in the NFL. He set a great example for some of the team’s younger players, especially fellow inside linebacker Denzel Perryman, with whom he has formed an extremely close bond. Late in the season, Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy recognized Te’o’s leadership by naming him a team captain for the final four games after defensive tackle Corey Liuget was placed on the “Reserve-Injured” list.
The Chargers had reason to expect big things from Te’o in 2015 due to the way he finished the 2014 season. In the final month of the Bolts’ 2014 campaign, Te’o recorded 42 tackles, including 29 in the last two games versus San Francisco and Kansas City. He also collected the first interception and first sack of his career. He finished the season with 68 tackles, tied for fourth on the team.
Te’o joined the Chargers in 2013 after the team made a trade with Arizona, moving up seven spots in the second round, to select him with the 38th overall pick. Te’o was the runner-up to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in voting for the 2012 Heisman Trophy. At Notre Dame, Te’o captured a host of national awards after leading the Irish to an undefeated 2011 regular season and a meeting with Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Te’o led the Irish in tackles and he was third in the nation with seven interceptions. His award haul included the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, the Maxwell Award, the Lombardi Trophy, the Bednarik Award, the Nagurski Award, the Butkus Award, the Lott Trophy and the Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP Award. A team captain, Te’o was also a consensus All-America on the football field and inside the classroom.
A native of Laie, Hawaii on the island of Oahu, Te’o burst onto the national scene in 2010 when he led the Irish with 133 tackles as a sophomore. Awards began to pour in a year later after a team-leading 128-tackle junior season that included a career-high five sacks. Te’o’s seven interceptions in 2012 set a Notre Dame record for linebackers and they were the most by a linebacker in the NCAA since 2000.
Te’o was invited back to South Bend in April, 2016 to give a speech to the school’s senior class about the Notre Dame tradition. While there, he also visited his old dormitory and threw out the first pitch for the housing unit’s annual Whiffle Ball World Series.
Te’o comes from a family with a lengthy history in NCAA football. His maternal grandfather, Louis Santiago, played at BYU. Three of his maternal uncles, Louis, Walter and Lane Santiago, all played at the University of Hawaii. And Te’o’s father, Brian, played as a prep at Kahuku High School in Oahu.
Te’o has four younger sisters and a younger brother. Three of his sisters are in college at BYU-Hawaii.
Both of his parents worked in the education field – his father in early childhood development and his mother, Ottilia, as a high school guidance counselor.
Away from football, Te’o is an Eagle Scout and enjoys fishing while free diving at Clissold’s Beach in his native Laie where he can patrol the beach’s reef for octopus.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Second-round pick by Chargers (38), April 26, 2013...signed May 13.
2015: Season-high 16 tackles in 30-27 win vs. Cleveland Oct. 4...inactive Oct. 18 at Green Bay, Oct. 25 vs. Oakland, Nov. 1 at Baltimore and Nov. 9 vs. Chicago (ankle)...big effort in 31-25 win at Jacksonville Nov. 29, leading team with 13 tackles, while late second-quarter interception set up TD for 21-9 lead...overtime tackle for loss among 11 stops Dec. 24 at Oakland...tackled Charles Woodson for three-yard loss on reverse option play on 1st-and-goal from Chargers’ 10 on opening possession of overtime...10 tackles Jan. 3 at Denver to log first 100-tackle season of career (107)...early in third quarter vs. Broncos, forced fumble vs. C.J. Anderson that Jahleel Addae recovered.
2014: Injured foot Sept. 21 at Buffalo...inactive next six games (foot)...returned Nov. 16 vs. Oakland...first career interception off Tom Brady Dec. 7 vs. New England on NBC’s Sunday Night Football...team-high 14 tackles in 38-35 overtime win at San Francisco Dec. 20...team and season-high 15 stops Dec. 28 at Kansas City.
2013: Inactive Weeks 1-3 (foot)...NFL debut Sept. 29 vs. Dallas...season-high 11 tackles, including one for loss, in Dec. 29 playoff-clinching season finale vs. Kansas City...tied for second on squad with 13 tackles in playoffs.
COLLEGE: First-team All-America as senior and second-team as junior...two-time Capital One Academic All-America...2012 National Scholar-Athlete by National Football Foundation...19-time Player of Week, including seven-time FBS Independent Defensive Player of Week and five-time Lott IMPACT Player of Week...four College Football Performance Awards...Rockne Student-Athlete of Year as junior...finished career with 437 total tackles (third in school history), 34 tackles for loss (11th), 8.5 sacks, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries...played at Notre Dame from 2009-12...graphic design degree.
PERSONAL: Born in Laie, Hawaii...USA Today Defensive Player of Year and Sporting News High School Athlete of Year as senior 2008 at Punahou High School in Laie...led school to first state title as senior...invited to 2009 Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla., and Hawaii Prep Classic, featuring all-stars from mainland vs. Hawaii...first recipient of Butkus Award as top prep linebacker in country...Hawaii’s Gatorade Player of Year in 2007 and ’08...2007 Defensive Player of Year and first-team all-state by Honolulu Star-Bulletin and two-time first-team all-state and conference defensive player of year by Honolulu Advertiser.