Giving Up Big Things for Greater Things

Much like beauty, the perception of bigger or better is in the eye of the beholder. For one highly recruited Hawaiian linebacker, his eye isn't fixed on bigger things, but rather on greater things, things that many may feel are of lesser value.

One would think that for someone who is considered to be one of the top football recruits in the country, his summer would be spent touring the country and visiting illustrious college campuses, being wooed by high-profile coaches heaping praise upon him, and making guest appearances at various summer camps.

However, for Manti Te'o, those things just aren't that important. The Punahou middle linebacker has only visited BYU during its padded camp and participated in the All-Poly Camp before flying back home to his family in Hawaii.

Instead, Te'o has been focusing on something very important to him over the past three months.

"My family and I decided to read the scriptures every morning for about three months so far," said Te'o. "To start off the day spiritually is really a great thing, and it has really made a difference for me to start the day off that way. I feel it has really helped our family. I feel there is greater peace in the home, and we are closer together since we've been doing that. Everyone works together and there is more unity in the home."

Along with reading scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the Bible, the Te'o family has also incorporated prayer into their daily routine.

"It has really made a difference and it carries with me throughout the day," said Te'o. "We start the day off with a prayer every morning and then we say a prayer at night. It's just really great and has really made a difference for me and my family."

There's an old popular saying: "Of where much is given, much is expected." Te'o said he feels he was given his athletic ability for a reason.

"I was blessed with stature, and you don't usually see people with my size - I don't want to brag or sound boastful or anything like that - that can move," said Te'o. "I believe the Lord has blessed me with this talent so I can do missionary work. I believe the Lord has blessed me with an athletic gift to not serve myself but to be an example to others and serve him."

The recruiting process can easily become more about what can a recruit can get, and how much, for their God-given talents. Many seek the center stage through the media spotlight and often develop a disposition of personal greatness facilitated by the recruiting process and accompanying promises of glory. Many athletes take on this persona in the realm of high-profile athletics. Te'o, however, is far from self-serving.

"I have witnessed some experiences where I have influenced some people," Te'o said. "I recently was on a PBS TV show where I was able to talk about serving a mission. The whole state of Hawaii saw it live, and a lot of people came up to me and thanked me for standing up for what I believe in. They told me how admirable it was. It was good."

Being able to use football as a tool to be a flag bearer for his faith has been a privilege, Te'o said.

"It's definitely a great blessing being able to portray the Lord with my play, to show people that this is me and that the Lord has blessed me with these things and this is how I choose to use it," said Te'o. "You always have to give back and show appreciation for what you've been given. This is my way to show gratitude to the Lord for what I've been given. I want to use what I've been given to benefit others."

Now back home among the tropical breeze and aqua blue waters of Hawaii, Manti Te'o has placed summer football activities in his rearview mirror. He will again turn his attention to what is most important to him before the glitter and gold of the recruiting world surfaces once again.

However, make no mistake about it, when that time does come the amount of shine will mean nothing in the eyes of Manti Te'o. Rather, he said he is willing to give up what others deem as being most important for what is truly of value.

"That's what the Lord did," Te'o said. "He gave up His life for something greater in order to benefit us all, and so we all want to be like Him, but we won't be asked to go to that degree. In some ways we are put into some situations and it comes down to what priorities you have and what you're going to do at that time. The Lord gave up something big for something greater, so why shouldn't I be expected to do the same?"

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