Te’o has excelled in the classroom as his grade-point average has been well above 3.0 his entire career at Notre Dame. In 2011, he was named a second-team Academic All-American, becoming the 56th selection in Notre Dame football history. Following the 2011 season, Te’o was selected the football team’s recipient of the Rockne student-athlete of the year. He is on pace to graduate this December from Notre Dame, earning his degree in three and a half years.
Te’o has been a leader since birth. He was the perfect example for his siblings to follow as he was a good student and good citizen. A member of the Boy Scouts as a child, Te’o earned Eagle Scout status after years of determination and effort. He and his family knew the value of a good education as Te’o traveled 90 minutes each way so he could attend one of the most prestigious high schools in Hawaii. Raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Te’o traveled each day to downtown Honolulu to attend Punahou High School. Te’o would pass his local high school on the way to Punahou but he and his family knew how the elite education offered at Punahou would benefit him for the rest of his life. Te’o was taught lessons by his family early in life that he remembered and carried with him. One day he was in the car with his father when Te’o saw a homeless man on the side of the road with a sign asking for donations of any kind. Young Manti asked his father why the man was begging in public. Brian Te’o responded the man was there so we’ll find out whether or not we will help. Fast forward to June 2011 and Te’o could be found during his summer vacation serving as a volunteer at the South Bend Center for the Homeless. At this facility Te’o interacted with local youths by playing games, reading books and being a positive role model in the lives of South Bend kids. The importance of community is so important to Te’o that when a reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times asked him about his future aspirations, he never talked about his goals of reaching the NFL. He spoke only about returning to Hawaii to make an impact on the lives of young kids in his hometown. Te’o talks about growing up in a poorer part of Oahu and how he would like to make a difference in as many peoples’ lives as possible. Te’o talks about the NFL in terms of that career choice providing a means to an end. He knows the salary he could receive by playing football for a living will only help him assist more people in his hometown. Te’o refuses to be labeled just an athlete or football player. He is part of a family he feels indebted to and obligated to pay back for all the help he received as a kid. Te’o is the true leader of the Fighting Irish defense yet is constantly deflecting praise to his teammates and coaches. While reporters try to get him to speak about himself, Te’o routinely speaks of the great effort by the defensive lineman that allows him to clean up with tackles and how the coaches do a great job of putting him in position to succeed.
Te’o has been involved in a number of events in the local community. He has participated in the Irish Experience League that brings South Bend-area youths to Notre Dame’s campus where they participate in athletic activities with Notre Dame student-athletes. In June of 2011, Te’o visited the local homeless shelter each day for two weeks and became an inspiration to a number of the children that lived there. He helped prepare a Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter in 2011. Te’o is very active in his local church and has made a number of friends at his parish.
A consensus preseason first-team All-American in 2012, Te’o has been an impact player for the Irish in each of his first three seasons. Named a second-team All-American by five media outlets in 2011, Te’o was also a finalist for the Lott Trophy and Butkus Award in his junior year. One of the highest regarded and most-decorated defensive recruits in Notre Dame history, Te’o has totaled 324 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles in his career. He ranks eighth in career tackles at Notre Dame entering 2012. Te’o has played in all 38 games in his Notre Dame career, starting 36 total contests including 35 consecutive games.