Manti Te'o got to fraternize with the enemy Wednesday, spending time with Alabama center and fellow Lombardi Award finalist Barrett Jones in Houston. Te'o won the award -- the third major honor he's garnered with four more to be determined -- beating out Jones, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones for the honor given annually to the nation's top linemen or linebacker.
In his acceptance speech, Te'o pointed out the strangeness of being seated next to a direct competitor for the BCS Championship at the ceremony, and repeatedly referred to the 6-foot-5, 302-pound center as a "big dude."
The way Te'o spoke of Jones, the two seem to have plenty in common, minus the opposite jerseys they'll wear next month in South Florida.
"There's no trash-talking, I think the fans do more of that," Te'o told CSN Houston of his time with Jones. "But meeting Barrett, he's a great guy, has great parents. He's very quiet and he's very intelligent and hard-working."
Jones is the odds-on favorite to win the Rimington Trophy given to the nation's best center -- an honor for which Te'o's teammate, Braxston Cave, is also up. As for Te'o, he's a finalist for three more accolades that will be announced Thursday -- the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player), the Walter Camp Award (most outstanding player) and the Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year). Te'o has already won the Nagurski Trophy (most outstanding defensive player) and the Butkus Award (most outstanding linebacker) in addition to the Lombardi Award.
Te'o is only the second player to win the Butkus, Nagurski and Lombardi awards and is two honors away from tying Charles Woodson for the most major awards won in a single season with five. Woodson won the Heisman, Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe and Walter Camp awards in 1997.
But the biggest prize of Te'o's awards tour will be announced Saturday in Times Square, where Te'o will join Collin Klein and Johnny Manziel for the Heisman Trophy presentation. A defensive player hasn't won the Heisman since Woodson 15 years ago, and it's extremely rare for a defender who doesn't contribute on offense or special teams to be invited to the Heisman ceremony, let alone win the honor.
"It's definitely special with Collin and with Johnny, guys who have highlights everywhere," Te'o said. "It's definitely a big opportunity for me and a big honor for me to be with them and be numbered among them and to represent my family and my school."