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Associated Press

Te'o gets chance to re-center himself

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o pretended to win the Heisman Trophy in the past.

The senior captain would create a video game version of himself with one difference from reality, he would be a running back.

The alternate-reality Te'o would run away with the Heisman.

Now that he is a serious contender for the award, Te'o still feels like he is in an alternate universe.

"It's kind of surreal, that I'm on that Heisman list," Te'o said during a Wednesday news conference. "To actually be a candidate for that in real life, it's a real surprise for me. But all that does for me, it shows me I'm heading in the right direction."

Te'o got a chance to re-center himself during last week's bye, going back home to Hawaii.

It was a trip he delayed for two weeks after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend days before the Irish played at Michigan State.

"My time away, it was really nice," Te'o said. "It was real nice to see my grandma. It was real nice to just be with my family again. … It was just an amazing experience for me to be home to have some closure, to say goodbye to my grandma, to see my family and make sure everyone was OK.

"I've never felt so strong. I've never felt so spiritually strong."

Te'o said he promised his girlfriend, who was battling leukemia, he would keep playing if anything happened to her during the season. And when she was buried on the day Notre Dame defeatedMichigan, Te'o said he know the exact time it happened (noon locally, 9 a.m. pacific).

Te'o was honored at the game by Notre Dame students and fans, who wore leis to show support for him.

"I felt a sense of peace, that I have so many people that cared about Manti, instead of No. 5," Te'o said.

Te'o has been the main force in steering Notre Dame in the right direction.

He has a team-high 38 tackles, is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and has two fumble recoveries.

And as the No. 9 Irish (4-0) prepare to play Miami (4-1) on Saturday night in Chicago, Te'o wants more for the team.

"I was talking to (defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore), just recently, and I was telling him this is the most critical part of our season," Te'o said. "We've never been 4-0. I've never been 4-0 here. It's very crucial for us to really settle down. We are getting a lot of praise and a lot of pats on our backs, and that is nice.

"But we have to really just avoid all of that stuff. We have to know who we are, and remember what got us to this point. That is hard work and getting back to it at practice."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.

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