Travels For Te'o

The Notre Dame coaching staff made multiple trips to Hawai'i and they paid off on Signing Day with Manti Te'o's signature. Brian Polian made at least 10 trips to Hawai'i in a little over a year and he was able to laugh about his journeys.

Notre Dame assistant coach Brian Polian joked that he accidentally packed a bag for Hawai'i before Wednesday's National Signing Day.

He was only kidding, but nobody could have blamed Polian, who made 10 trips to Hawai'i in the last 14 months to see Manti Te'o and six in the last two months.

"I'd like to take this chance to thank the crew of United Flight 81. I got to know them well because I took the same flight every Wednesday from LAX to Honolulu," Polian said. "It got to the point about the third week I got on with my coaching shirt and the head steward…would get on and say, ‘Hey, Coach how we doing? Going back again. How's the kid?'

"The staff of United Flight 81 was following this recruitment."

It is a six-hour flight from the mainland to Hawai'i and that does include the travel out to the West Coast, but Polian can laugh about his journeys now that Te'o has signed with the Irish.

"It takes two trips to see all four movies that are being offered and I can tell you that in the month of January, all four of them were awful," said Polian.

"As grumpy as I would get on some of those trips and as grumpy as some of our coaches would get having to make these trips, when you meet this kid and you meet his family and see the school that he comes from, he's a special kid."

Te'o said that the commitment and dedication that Polian showed him made a difference.

"Out of all of the coaches that recruited me of all of the colleges, he showed the most persistence. To fly that far every single week, that takes a toll on somebody," said Te'o on Irish Eyes Power Hour this week. "He's a great man and I really appreciate his efforts in recruiting me."

Polian obviously developed a true affection for Te'o over the last 14 months.

"I was telling Manti on the phone, I said, ‘You're as close to a man-crush as I've ever had in my 34 years.'"

Charlie Weis also recognized Te'o as a special player and decided to make the journey to Hawai'i to see him at the risk of offending other recruits who would not get the same extra attention from the Notre Dame head coach.

"I normally don't go see somebody, because when you see one person, you might be turning somebody else off," Weis said. "It's very important that you pick the right person when you decide to go. But I decided that this kid was important enough to our class for me to go out there."

Despite the fullcourt press, the Irish staff had to wait until Signing Day to find out if it would pay off.

"This recruitment presented a different set of challenges than I've ever experienced before," said Polian. "I've been doing it going into 13 years now and have never had to watch television on Signing Day to figure out what was going on. I had some clues, but nobody ever came out and give us an answer."

Te'o said that he did not make his decision until 5 o'clock Wednesday morning, but conversations late Tuesday showed that he was leaning toward the Irish.

"Mid-evening (Tuesday) night was him calling and just asking one question," Weis recalled. "'Well, you really think I'm going to have a chance to come in here and compete?' Which that's a rhetorical question, but that's what he asked."

Later Te'o's father Brian called Polian to asked about the language of the scholarship offer to be sure that there would be no consequences if his son does decide to go on a mission after his freshman year.

"When somebody calls you in the middle of the night to ask you a question like that, you know you have a chance," said Weis.

Notre Dame was waiting on a couple of prospects to announce on Signing Day, a practice recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello said is becoming more and more prevalent.

"The biggest trend I saw today sitting in our staff room was a bunch of kids announcing on television and maybe more so than I've ever seen," he said. "We didn't know where they were going until they said it. You'd like obviously to have a kid call, but since Manti announced it was us, we're okay with that. We'll forgive him."

But Ianello understands that the Irish were taking a big risk in that they could have come up empty on Signing Day.

"If you're going to wait on a Manti Te'o and be willing to roll the dice on Signing Day morning whether he's going to come or not than you're going to get him or get nobody else and that's what we were willing to do here," Ianello said. "Wait for those marquee players as opposed to taking somebody that maybe we don't have the same kind of belief in or we don't rate as high.

"There's still very good players out there, but for whatever reasons we and a lot of others felt Manti was a top-of-the-board guy. So we were willing to wait on a top-of-the-board guy and maybe let another good player go in order to have a chance to get that kind of a player."

Ianello said that if the Irish intend to compete with the nation's top programs for the nation's top players then there is not much they can do other than wait.

"I think that is the cost of doing business when you're trying to be a team that's trying to win National Championships, which is what we're trying to do," he said.

Te'o's commitment was followed by pledges from his teammate wide receiver Roby Toma and 2010 five-star linebacker Chris Martin. Weis believes that the dividends from the publicity of Te'o's announcement will continue to be paid.

"It's going to regenerate. The team is fired up, I've gotten texts from a good portion of the team," Weis said. "I'm sure the student body will be fired up. It's already paid dividends in recruiting for 2010. There's going to be a ton of positive residual effects."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories