Wizards

Notre Dame's Te'o eyes Heisman after Maxwell win

201212061840672041524-p2.jpeg

Notre Dame's Te'o eyes Heisman after Maxwell win

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Manti Te'o is one of the most important leaders for undefeated Notre Dame, having played in a ton of big games for the Fighting Irish.

Even so, he had a tough time processing this victory.

The senior linebacker was ``at a loss for words'' after capturing the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player, one of three honors he received at the 22nd Home Depot College Football Awards show Thursday night at Disney World.

``The last time I ever dreamt of winning that award was on a video game,'' he said. ``So to win it is a mind-blowing experience.''

Te'o now has won six major awards since the end of Notre Dame's regular season, also taking home the Bednarik Award for top defensive player and Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award on Thursday. He became the first defensive player to win the Maxwell Award since 1980, ending a string of nine straight quarterbacks.

Next up is the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday night, with Te'o and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel considered the favorites. Then Te'o will try to help the Fighting Irish dethrone defending champion Alabama in the BCS national championship game.

Wearing a black beaded lei representing his native Hawaii, Te'o said coming back to play football following the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend just four days apart this season makes everything he's achieved since then more worthwhile.

``I never thought that me coming back for my senior year would be the best situation for me with the tragedy,'' Te'o said. ``It's a testament that the Lord answered my prayers and that I had 80-plus brothers there with me, sacrificing for me.''

Te'o finished the regular season with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who was presented with the Coach of the Year award after leading the Irish to their first 12-0 regular season since 1988, said Te'o is an example of the family culture he's tried to build in his three seasons in South Bend.

``Everybody knows you don't do it with one guy,'' Kelly said. ``Collectively, everybody just bought in. ... We still got one (game) left. We want to finish it off the right way.''

While Te'o and Notre Dame certainly had a big night, so did Texas A&M. Manziel won the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and junior offensive lineman Luke Joeckel took home the Outland Trophy for the nation's best interior lineman.

Other players honored Thursday were Southern California's Marqise Lee (Biletnikoff Award for top receiver), Tulane's Cairo Santos (Lou Groza Award for top kicker), Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen (Ray Guy Award for top punter), Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks (Jim Thorpe Award for top defensive back), and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (Doak Walker Award for top running back).

Manziel acknowledged he will be nervous Saturday knowing he has a chance to win college football's most hallowed individual honor. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is the third finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Three sophomores have won the Heisman, including Tim Tebow in 2007, Sam Bradford in 2008 and Mark Ingram in 2009. The best a first-year player has ever done is second.

``I had high expectations, but I never would have expected this for myself,'' said Manziel, a redshirt freshman. ``I'll be with two of the best players in the country, all eyes are on you. It's the biggest award in college football. I think you're gonna have a few butterflies.''

Joeckel said even he has been amazed at watching ``Johnny Football'' and his exploits this season.

``It's hard to protect for someone when nobody knows where he is,'' Joeckel said. ``He's a fun guy to block for.''

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said that type of level-headed poise is what has defined his quarterback all season.

``The way he plays, no moment has been too big for him,'' Sumlin said.

In one of the non-competition awards presented Thursday, Texas long snapper Nate Boyer was honored with the Disney Spirit Award, given annually to the most inspirational figure or team.

Boyer, a 32-year-old sophomore, earned a Bronze Star for his service with the U.S. Army Special Forces Unit and has also provided assistance to autistic children and Darfur refugees.

Former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian was honored with the Contribution to College Football Award for his works off the field.

Kelly said the former coach is every bit as revered as he was in his prime leading the Irish.

``He walks with a limp, but let me tell you, he could still coach today. And he can tell me things about my football team.'' Kelly said.

---

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/khightower .

Quick Links

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

nassir-little-unc-auburn-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

Best highlight video:
https://youtu.be/oGIQDUttG8I

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: