Over the years, when someone mentioned the face of Notre Dame football, offensive players usually came to mind.
In the late 80's into the 90's, names like Tony Rice, Rocket Ismail and Ricky Watters, more recently Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.
As the 2010 season is winding down, the new face of the Irish appears to be sophomore inside linebacker Manti Te'o.
The 6'2, 245-pound former USA Today Prep Defensive Player of The Year has been the one constant over the past two seasons. Te'o is the first Defensive Player of The Year to sign with Notre Dame since Kory Minor in 1995, and has lived up to his top billing from Day 1.
Te'o started 10 games as a freshman and finished with 63 tackles, third most ever by a Notre Dame freshman, he was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News.
Although there were some concerns even during the recruiting process that Te'o would leave school after his freshman year to pursue a two-year Mormon mission, he announced that he would complete his education and deal with his religious obligations later in life.
Although Te'o was still learning a new defensive coming into the 2010 season, his natural ability carried him to the rapidly improved workhorse that we see today.
It had been duly noted that Te'o was basically playing on instinct as a freshman and with more knowledge of the defense, he could become the force that we see today.
Those predictions were correct. Te'o has 100 total tackles after 10 games this season, including a season-high 21 vs. Stanford.
With Te'o as the face of the organization, the shift to a defensive-minded team will help in the recruiting of better players on the defensive side of the ball.
Getting to line up with Te'o, Carlo Calabrese, and Prince Shembo has to sound extremely inviting to commitments such as Stephon Tuitt (6'5 260-pound defensive end), Tony Springmann (6'6, 257-pound defensive end) and four-star defensive back Eilar Hardy (6'1, 175 pounds).
Coaches Kelly and Molnar will see to it that the offense is that explosive point-scoring machine that we were looking forward to.
In a short time, the offense will take care of itself, but the long-lasting effects of Manti Te'o will live on long after he is playing on Sundays.
The scary thing is is Te'o is still a sophomore, and he is still learning. His second and third effort to finish a play is starting to become "buzz worthy." The sky is the limit for Te'o during the second half of his collegiate career.
Te'o, who hails from Laie, Hawaii, surprised many people when he chose Notre Dame over warm weather schools USC and UCLA, but his style of play has come as no surprise.
This highly decorated linebacker is exactly the type of player that the Irish need to base their future on.