- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Manti Te'o was there for his sisters through his voice.
His father, Brian, could hear it bleeding through the doors of the Hawaii Baptist Academy gymnasium while chatting outside with a school administrator two years ago. Te'o was home for Christmas break and had pleaded with his old man to make the hour-plus drive to Honolulu to watch two of his four sisters play for Punahou's basketball team.
By game's end, Te'o's presence had been more than felt.
His second-oldest sister, Tiare, greeted their father with a smile, saying she knew big brother was in attendance because of the incessant pleading with the officials from the stands.
"When Manti comes home, that's what he spends his entire Christmas break doing: He goes to his sisters' basketball games," Te'o's mother, Ottilia, said. "Every single game they have, he's there. And he's their biggest cheerleader. He's yelling in the crowd. I think he's one of the worst fans there, because he's yelling, 'Bad call, ref!'"
Added Brian: "He supports them the same way we support him. That's our expectation of all of them: to pitch in when you can, because it will come around eventually."
This is part of the give-and-take with Te'o, Notre Dame's Heisman contender of a linebacker whose 417 career tackles resonate only as big as his impact off the gridiron. He has inspired fans young and old, stared a double serving of tragedy right in the eye and lifted the No. 3 Irish into the national title picture way ahead of schedule.
Te'o spurned NFL millions to return to Notre Dame for his final season, with BCS goals merely supplementing his bigger dream of impacting others. Both to-do items have been checked already, before the captain takes the Notre Dame Stadium field for the final time this Saturday against Wake Forest, when the emotions will be as charged as ever.
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