Intense eyes, heart and soul of the defense, coach on the field; these were all phrases used in tonight’s National Championship to describe Notre Dame standout middle linebacker Manti Te’o. Does this sound familiar Bears fans? Watching Te’o play in tonight’s National Championship should remind everyone of Mike Singletary, a very talented but overrated player.
Not only do the adjectives fit for Te’o, his play also resembles Singletary. Te’o brought home every possible award and is described as a “tackling machine.” He’s led the Irish the past few years in tackles, and is among the all-time leaders in Notre Dame history. Not known for sacking the quarterback, Te’o will be remembered for his playmaking ability in the open field.
Singletary was also known for his tackling ability for the Chicago Bears. Singletary in his 12 year career never had more than 1 interception in a season (7 career) and never had over 4 sacks in a season (19 career sacks). He was known as the leader of the most famous defensive unit of all time, the 85 Bears.
Even though both are great football players, neither were the best players on their defense. Both players got all of the accolades while playing for their respective teams, but neither would have had the careers if it wasn’t for the guys up front. Singletary was lucky enough to have Hall of Famers Dan Hampton and Richard Dent along with Steve Mongo McMichael to take on blockers in front of him. One can make the argument that Singletary wasn’t even the best linebacker on the defense (Wilber Marshall). But when people think of the 85 Bears defense, they think of Singletary
Te’o was fortunate enough to have future first round picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix in front of him. Offensive lines rarely got their mitts on Te’o due to all of the attention paid to the two big guys up front. In tonight’s National Championship, it was evident that Te’o struggles when a blocker is able to engage with him. He missed many open tackles and struggled to make plays. But just like Singletary, when people remember this Notre Dame defense, they will remember Te’o.
Te’o will enter the draft this year and will be a first round selection. Going into tonight’s National Championship, he was thought of as a top 5 pick. With tonight’s less than stellar performance, his draft stock will likely fall. This could be the best thing for his NFL career. With being selected later in the first round, Te’o will likely land on an established team where he doesn’t have to be the franchise’s “savior.”
Te’o is destined to have a nice NFL career, but to be second in Heisman Trophy voting and compared to greats like Ray Lewis is crazy. Just like Singletary, he’s a very good football player, but to be considered one ofthe best, that’s a stretch.