• Curtis Murayama @ The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Highly decorated Hawaii star Manti Te’o to speak at Hall of Honor


ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2017

Manti Te’o, a 2009 Hall of Honor inductee, is probably the most decorated football player to come out of Hawaii.

If there is any person who could deliver a powerful life message to today’s Hawaii high school student-athletes it would be Manti Te’o.

The former Punahou and Notre Dame star and six-year NFL veteran who experienced highs athletes dream of and a few life-altering lows will be today’s keynote speaker at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Hall of Honor.

The Hall of Honor, which has been recognizing 12 Hawaii senior student-athletes each year since 1983, will honor its 2019 class at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballroom at 5 p.m.

“I’m going to give them some life advice,” Te’o said in a telephone interview from San Diego. “Sports takes its proper place and life takes its place. … I’ve been extremely blessed with the things I have done, things I’ve experienced, with lessons I’ve learned.”

He said “those who have the power to share with younger generations, to reach out and touch another soul, more important to touch the soul of people of Hawaii” should do so and he feels “grateful” for the opportunity.

Te’o, a 2009 Hall of Honor inductee, is probably the most decorated football player to come out of Hawaii.

In 2008, he led Punahou to its first state title, won the inaugural Butkus Award that is given to the best prep linebacker in the country, earned the USA Today’s defensive player of the year and became one of the most highly recruited football players to come out of Hawaii.

His career arc continued at Notre Dame, and in his senior year, he became one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history, taking home all the national defensive awards. He also was one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which went to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Challenging life lessons came later, when he became the victim of a much publicized phishing hoax, experienced disappointment in losing in the college football championship and suffered successive heartbreaking NFL playoff defeats with the Saints — the Minneapolis Miracle touchdown pass on the final play and the non-call against the Rams that cost them a chance at the Super Bowl.

Fighting through adversity and rebounding from these setbacks have made Te’o a better, stronger person. When asked what he’s most proud of, he said, “That I never gave up. Through my highs and my lows, at one point in time, I kind of lost who I was. I was riding high and getting all the accolades, I kind of lost grip of who I was. I’m proud of the fact, when adversity struck, I re-centered myself.”

Injuries have impacted his NFL career, but Te’o, who is now a free agent, said, “I’m training. I’m exploring different ventures. … There’s never a time where there’s nothing for me to do. Regardless of what it is, football, family, business, church, what’s next I don’t know, but it’ll be great.”

Highly decorated Hawaii star Manti Te’o to speak at Hall of Honor

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