Secretive, sly and smiling, 17-year-old Manti Te'o – America's No. 1 rated 2009 prep linebacker…
Te'o Trims List to Five
With over 30 scholarship offers to choose from, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Te'o has been juggling his responsibilities on the field with the recruiting process that never stops nipping at his heels. "It's starting to heat up," he said of the process. "I just made my Top-5. It's UCLA, USC, Stanford, Notre Dame and BYU." Te'o will officially visit UCLA this coming weekend, as the Bruins host Arizona.
Manti was kind enough to give us a quick capsule look at the positives with each program he has chosen.
UCLA - "It's in a beautiful place, Beverly Hills. And I have a pretty close relationship with coach Norm Chow. He's a member of the church, he's LDS too, so it makes it more comfortable for me to go to a college where there's a guy in a high place who knows my standards and knows who I am. He's also Punahou alumni."
USC - "USC of course is USC. They play my brand of football - hard-nosed football, relentless football. They have a history of winning championships, and that's all I want to do - win a championship. Now that they have coach Ken Norton over there, the big thing is the linebackers. It's something where anybody who plays my position would want to be a part of."
Stanford - "Of course you know it's a great school academically. I really respect the linebacker coach, coach Andy Buh. And I've met their coach, Jim Harbaugh. They are great people. They seem to have a real interest in me and seem to care not only about me as a football player, but also as a person."
Notre Dame - "Great tradition. Coach Charlie Weis does great things with their football team. Last year was a rebuilding year for them and they are off to a good start this year. It's a sign of how coach Charlie Weis can turn a program around and of course his connections with the NFL are there."
BYU - "BYU is in a place I'm very familiar with - Utah. I have family members in Utah, and I would feel a lot more comfortable because I've been there. It's a church school, so any environment that has a jist of who you are and what you believe in - and they actually do - it's always a plus. And to see what coach (Bronco) Mendenhall is doing with the program, they are ranked 15 right now and they are about to go up in the rankings by how they've been playing so far."
"They are all great schools, so now the hard part is trying to narrow it down to one," Te'o added. "That will come in time."
Other than the visit to Westwood, Te'o has no other official visits set at this time. "This UCLA visit was planned Monday," he said. "It was kind of sudden. I actually made my Top-5 Monday morning. I knew it was a bye week, so I wanted to take advantage of this bye week to see some universities. UCLA agreed to trip me over there this weekend. It's very exciting."
And despite the distance between Honolulu and Hollywood, Te'o won't try and go to USC this weekend in a two-fer, and vise-versa. "My plan is to go to one at a time," he said. "I want to go to UCLA and then let it soak in. Then go to another and let it soak in. I want to give everybody the same shot at recruiting and I really want to make the best decision."
Already a seasoned veteran of the recruiting process, Te'o admitted he learned some things about one of his top-5 that surprised him just a little bit. "I didn't really know Stanford," he said. "I knew of the university but I didn't know the coaching staff. Over the summer I really got to know their coaching staff and they are great people. They are trying to improve their program and make it championship caliber. I would have to say their coaching staff are a great group of men."
When it comes to choosing a school, there's one priority that comes above all else for the Punahou Punisher. "The number-one thing for me is my religion," Te'o said. "Everything else is practically even. I want to have an even balance with everything else. First and foremost is my religion. If they have my religion down pat, I think I'll feel the most comfortable there."
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