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Title game prep no laughing matter to Te'o
[January 04, 2013]

Title game prep no laughing matter to Te'o

Jan 04, 2013 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- To Manti Te'o, the postseason awards circuit was a joke. His parents followed him from city to city for an exhausting week, snapping photos of dinner spreads and videotaping their son being ferried from hotel to banquet and back.

For Notre Dame's decorated senior linebacker, this weeklong mob scene was a laugh riot.

"I'm like, Dad, we complain about the tourists in Hawaii and them driving 10 miles per hour on the highway," Te'o said Thursday. "And you're taking pictures of lasagna." After that, Te'o played straight man during preparation for the BCS title game against Alabama on Monday. Once refueled after that honors rodeo, the Irish's leading tackler amped up his energy and effort to levels that, evidently, the Heisman Trophy runner-up hadn't reached before.

"Manti has actually practiced harder since the award circuit, practiced harder than he has all year long," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "He has raised his game even as early as last week and leading up to the travel here." Moments after Te'o lost out in the Heisman race, he seemed to hoist a chip back on his shoulder. No great mystery to that approach, or the one that followed: He's playing the biggest game of his life, so he's acting accordingly.

"If I don't prepare myself the best I can throughout the week, I won't be ready for (game day)," Te'o said. "You can't just turn it on and off. I can't just slack the whole weekend and when game day comes, say, 'OK, I'm ready, I'm going to go all out now.' " Heartfelt message: Irish linebacker Danny Spond wears No. 13 to honor the number of victims in the 1999 shooting at his alma mater, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

He doesn't claim to know the emotions of those crushed by the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but Spond believes he knows what's next.

"I was a younger kid, and my family going through that and my community, it's something that is unspeakable," Spond said. "It's hard to even put into words. I don't have much to say about it, other than the fact that time will heal. It did our community, and I know it will theirs." Smooth operator: Alabama center Barrett Jones figured 49 starts would limit rust when he returned to practice this week for the first time since the SEC title game, and his linemates confirmed that.

"It was like he never got hurt," guard Chance Warmack said. "He's doing a good job, making the right calls and moving very efficiently." Extra points: Any Orange Bowl appearance during the game's new 12-year deal will net Notre Dame $13.75 million, ESPN reported. ... Freshman Gunner Kiel is wearing No. 10 and serving as Notre Dame's scout-team version of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

___ (c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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