Te'o finished the 2012 season with 103 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven interceptions and one fumble recovery, leading a Notre Dame defense that was the best in the country in points allowed. Te'o received 84 points in the award's voting process, putting him well ahead of runners-up Jarvis Jones of Georgia, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Kevin Minter of LSU and Dion Jordan of Oregon.
Since 2008, the Butkus award, named after Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, has expanded to the high school and professional ranks, honoring the top linebacker at those levels as well. Te'o becomes the first player to win both the high school award and collegiate award, as he was named the country's top high school linebacker in 2008.
Te'o has also been named as a finalist for both the Maxwell Award, given to the best overall collegiate football player, and the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player. He is expected to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as well.