The Spoils of Victory

A top tier player last season but arguably better and certainly more valuable to the Notre Dame offense this fall, senior tight end Tyler Eifert today became the first member of Tight End U to take home the John Mackey Award recognizing the nation's top tight end.

Tyler Eifert caught 19 more passes in his junior season of 2011 than he did this fall. He likewise accumulated 179 more receiving yards last year and scored one more touchdown -- albeit in 13 games -- than he has to date in 2012.

The 6'6" 250-plus pound target was likely the nation's best at his position last season, but with eight wins, five losses, and the perception that he played second fiddle to star receiver Michael Floyd in the Irish passing game, Eifert finished behind Clemson's Dwayne Allen in Mackey Award voting.

Now the top offensive player for an Irish offense on a 12-0 squad bound for the BCS Championship game, Eifert has been recognized for his excellence, becoming the first Notre Dame player to take home the Mackey Trophy in its 13-year history.

Eifert's classmate Manti Te'o knows well the trappings of victory as well. College football's most well-known active player -- and likely its best overall to boot -- Te'o has already won the Butkus Award (presented to the nation's top linebacker) and the Nagurski which recognizes the nation's best defensive player.

He's in the running for the Bednarik (also outstanding defensive player), Walter Camp (national player of the year), Lombardi (top lineman), and Maxwell Trophy (best player).

The pair isn't alone. Te'o's defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was named yesterday the nation's top assistant coach (The Frank Broyles Award) while the man in charge of each, head coach Brian Kelly, today was named national coach of the year by Home Depot.

The Mackey, Butkus, Nagurski, and Broyles awards were firsts for the University. The Home Depot award is Kelly's second (Cincinnati 2009) and Notre Dame's second as well, as Tyrone Willingham took home the honor in 2002, his first season in South Bend.

Eifert and Kelly will receive their trophies at the Home Depot Awards Show (ESPN) Thursday night. Te'o will likewise learn his Bednarik and Maxwell Trophy fate during the ceremony while the Lombardi award will be presented to the 2012 winner Wednesday in Houston. Offensive tackle Aaron Taylor (1993) is the most recent Irish player to capture the Lombardi award while quarterback Brady Quinn took home the Maxwell Trophy in 2006.

Other Lombardi award winners for Notre Dame include Chris Zorich (1990), Ross Browner (1977), and Walt Patulski (1971). Browner also won the Maxwell Trophy ('77) as did Leon Hart (1949), Johnny Lattner (1952-53), Jim Lynch (1966), and Quinn.

The prestigious Walter Camp Award will also be announced tonight. Te'o, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, Texas A&M' quarterback Johnny Manziel, Kansas State quarterback Colin K

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