By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) – The 76 Annual Maxwell Awards are being held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, where high school and collegiate athletes and coaches are honored for displaying excellence. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is the winner of both the Collegiate Player of the Year Award and the Chuck Bednarik Collegiate Defensive Player of the Year Award. Other awards presented to local recipients include the 12th Annual Tri-State Player Award given to Khaseem Greene from Rutgers University; the 15th Annual Tri-State Coach Award given to Isaac Collins, formerly of Widener University; the 28th Annual Jim Henry Award given to Fran Walsh from Archbishop Wood; the Collegiate Coach of the Year Award given to Bill O’Brien from Penn State; and the Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award given to 31 Penn State senior football players.
Former Philadelphia Eagle, NFL analyst and President of the Maxwell Football Club, Ron Jaworski attended the media press conference for the awards and reflected on the honors presented to Penn State.
“What these young men accomplished is a testament to perseverance, to trust, to commitment — all those words that we use as buzz words –but this is a real life example of what these young men did. And then Bill O’Brien—he was able to preserve when people said, ‘No, you can’t win,’ and he won.”
Jaworski also talked about the importance of the Maxwell Football Club Awards.
“We honor more than just football. We honor excellence at all levels of those people involved in football from players to coaches to administrators. We really try to make it more than just the X’s and O’s of football but about the lessons we learn from the game,” he said.
For the 10th consecutive year, the awards will be presented during the Club’s National Awards Dinner banquet in Atlantic City. The Maxwell Football Club is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which was founded in 1997.
In the Concert Venue at Harrah’s, recipients spoke with members the media about winning the prestigious awards including Te’o, who is the recipient of both the Collegiate Player of the Year Award and the Chuck Bednarik Collegiate Defensive Player of the Year Award. This is the first time in the Club’s 76 year history that a player has won both awards.
Despite the unprecedented honor, the past couple of months have been bittersweet for Te’o who led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season in the midst of his grandmother’s death and a much publicized hoax that dominated sports news. Regardless of the revelation that an acquaintance of Te’o confessed to orchestrating the hoax that lured the linebacker into an online relationship with a nonexistent woman, Te’o is trying to concentrate on his future. When asked how he deals with the focus on those issues in his personal life, Te’o candidly answered, “Avoid. Avoid a lot of the stuff. I think it’s just knowing what you can control and knowing what you can’t control.”
He added, “What I can control is making myself the best player, the best person that I can be and so I tend to focus on that.”
Te’o, the first defensive player to win the Maxwell Award in the last 32 years has a positive outlook on his future and says he hopes he will get drafted into the NFL.
“You just hope, you prepare, you work hard, you do your best and you hope for the best and so I don’t know specifically where I’m going to go, I just hope that one of those 32 places becomes my home.”
Te’o also offered some poignant advice for aspiring young athletes.
“First, just work hard—you’re going to hit some times with adversity and it’s how you respond to adversity that measures you as a man,” he said, “It’s all part of growing, it’s all part of life, but how you respond is the measure of your character, and test’s who you are; so just keep going.”
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook