From sales to scholarships, Manti Te'o's impact felt outside the - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

From sales to scholarships, Manti Te'o's impact felt outside the football field

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Manti Te'o Manti Te'o
Keith Kirkpatrick Keith Kirkpatrick
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By: Mike Cherry

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (HawaiiNewsNow) - In South Bend, Indiana, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, the popularity of Punahou graduate and Heisman trophy hopeful Manti Te'o is in full effect.

Number "5" Fighting Irish jerseys are tucked away under student's hoodies, and around the school, the only football icon more well known these days is Touchdown Jesus, the on-campus mural of a resurrected Jesus with his arms stretched as though he were a referee signifying a touchdown.

But the Manti Teo-effect refers to more than just the plays he makes on the field; it also equals dollar signs for Fighting Irish merchandise, the sales of which have increased by 300% from last season.

"Our home-and-away game was in Chicago, against Miami, and we narrowed it down from three jerseys to one, because generally on the road we don't get that much support," said Keith Kirkpatrick, the Manager of the Notre Dame on-campus bookstore. "But the support for the number "5" jersey was through the roof, and the fans, no matter where they came from, could relate to that jersey."

For the first time ever, the school has even printed up hats that have one special player's number emblazoned across them.

Which one?

Te'o, of course.

And while it would be understandable for Manti to take exception to someone earning money off his likeness, Te'o says he takes it all in stride.

"I remember being a freshman coming off the bus and seeing the number "7" jerseys for (then Notre Dame quarterback) Jimmy Clausen," said Te'o. "I said, ‘Man, I hope one day people wear my number too.' When I see that, it shows how far my family and I have come."

Te'o's influence, though, can be seen in more than just jersey sales. He's set a standard, so to speak, for the Hawaii prep athletes who will play after him. His senior year at Punahou, Manti's college letter-of-intent signing day was shown on ESPN, and since then, there's been a boom of college recruiters in Hawaii, all in search of the next Manti.

"It's just there's more awareness, there's more exposure," said Kale Ane, the head coach of Punahou's football team. "We've always had kids who were good, and they've gone away to camps for the summer, but to have someone dominate at that level and do all those things that coaches love, now they're all coming."

Ane says in addition to all of the schools of the Pac-12 conference, he's also hosted coaches from as far away as Texas A&M, Florida, and Ohio State.

"My main thing was to get Hawaii on the map. I didn't care about getting attention, because I felt, ‘I'm gonna get attention as long as I continue to do what I gotta do,'" said Te'o. "But I want to make sure my friends around me get attention too."

Manti also says that he takes pride in representing his home state as well as he has.

"If you want to have great players, with great personality and great character, Hawaii's the place you gotta go," said Te'o. "For me, to be part of that and to be recognized as one of the first, it definitely means more to me than any amount of accolades I can receive."

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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