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Manti Mania captures Hawaii

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Nov 26 2012 07:12:04 PM HST
Updated On: Nov 27 2012 06:45:41 AM HST

Hawaii has already produced a President. Now, how 'bout a Heisman Trophy?

HONOLULU -

The T-shirt is a play on words, but says everything you need to know about the push to make Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o the first all-defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.

"Basically, it just says Heisman phonetically, and it just means Hawaii's man," said Buti Groove owner BJ Sabate, who's company printed another six dozen T-shirts Monday after Notre Dame's win over USC.

The back of the navy blue T-shirt says "HI's Man," with Teo's number 5 highlighted in gold.  Buti Groove is selling the shirts online and at it's store on Piikoi Street for $25.

Sabate believes fans are snapping up shirts as quickly as the Laie native stops running backs because of the Te'o's outstanding play and his commitment to faith and family.

"What impresses us is just how humble he is and how much he works as a team," said Sabate. "Everybody loves and appreciates what he does and how he represents Hawaii."

In September, Te'o grabbed national headlines when his grandmother and girlfriend passed away in the week leading up to the game against Michigan State.  Te'o honored two of the most important women in his life by suiting up with his teammate and registering 12 tackles.

That kind of dedication and work ethic is not lost on Te'o's former head football coach at Punahou School, Kale Ane, who won a state championship with Te'o in 2008.

"He made everybody around him better, and I'm not surprised by how well he's doing," Ane told KITV4.  "He's had to deal with a lot of pressure and tremendous expectations, and he's always been grounded enough to deal with it and know what he can and can't do."

According to a USA Today survey of Heisman voters, Te'o is in second place to freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

However, knowing Te'o like he does, Ane believes the 21-year-old is more concerned about winning a national BCS championship than accumulating personal accolades.

"I think he'd be the first to tell you that it's team first, and to be No. 1 at the end of the year would be the crowning achievement for him," said Ane.

Finalists for the 78th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy will be announced Dec. 3 in New York City.  The winner will be awarded the trophy Dec. 8 at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.

"I think it's going to be close, but I think the local boy is going to win," said Ane.

Buti Groove is donating $5 of every Manti T-shirt it sells to the Hawaii chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia only a few months after a car crash earlier led to the diagnosis.

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