Te'o was presented with the award Thursday at the Home Depot College Football Awards show at Disney World. He beat out finalists and quarterbacks Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M and Collin Klein from Kansas State.
He is the first defensive player to win the award since 1980, ending a string of nine straight quarterbacks.
It's the sixth national award that Te'o has won since the end of the regular season. The Fighting Irish senior has also has won the Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award and Walter Camp national player of the year award.
Te'o is also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which will be presented on Saturday.