Just over two months ago Manti Te’o was quickly becoming a well known celebrity and seemed
to be on top of the world. The Hawaiian middle linebacker for Notre Dame finished second in the
Heisman trophy race, led his squad to the National Championship game for the first time since 1988,
was getting interviews left and right and, for all he knew, had found the love of his life via internet.
Needless to say, things change, and in Te’o’s case, they changed for the absolute worst.
First, he played arguably the worst game of his career and got embarrassed in a blowout
loss against Alabama in the National Championship game which had to of been a major blow to his
confidence. Then, he got “catfished” worse than anyone in history when he found out that his beloved
“girlfriend” didn’t even exist and their entire internet relationship was a prank. After that, he became
the laughing stock of the entire nation and was being mocked and made fun of daily. Talk about
embarrassing. Now, I know that seems absolutely devastating, but at least he could still look forward to
being a top five pick in the upcoming NFL draft, right? Wrong. He went on to record an under sub-par
performance at the NFL combine by running a 4.81 in the 40 yard dash, a number that will have to drop
to roughly a 4.65 if he wants to be considered an elite, three down linebacker in the NFL. To be honest,
when I witnessed him run the 40 I wouldn’t have been surprised if it came up as 5.2. He really looked
that slow. Not only was he slow, he was also unable to make up for it during any of the quickness or
reaction drills. Three key aspects that separate the good linebackers from the great: speed, quickness,
Then, Te’o had the nerve and audacity to blame his poor performance on the simple fact that he
was “exhausted” and “tired.” Making excuses is the last thing you want to do in the face of NFL scouts
when you’re trying to impress them. He should have just admitted the fact that he hadn’t been training
as hard as he should have been because of his off the field issues and took accountability. Later, in the
post-combine press conference Te’o said “As far as film, flip on the film. That’s my play.” Careful what
you wish for Te’o, you don’t want them to turn on the Alabama game. If the saying “You’re only as good
as your last game,” is true, then Te’o really sucks.
Anyway, with that being said, Te’o will have the opportunity to improve his times when Notre
Dame has their pro day on March 26th. But still, how much could he possibly improve in less than a
month? Te’o went from being a sure top five pick to being lucky to even be a first round selection in less
than two months. Even Te’o’s leadership, arguably his greatest attribute, has become irrelevant. Whose
going to listen to a kid that didn’t even know his “girlfriend” wasn’t real? I wouldn’t, that’s for sure.
In my opinion, Te’o’s screwed. Not many coaches are going to be willing to stick their neck out
on the line for Te’o after what he has been through and what he showed at the combine, especially
in the first round. He might even slip to the third round if he doesn’t show drastic improvements by
March 26th. Drafting someone like Te’o is automatically going to create negative media attention for
everyone. Coaches will be questioned for their decision making by the media and even the players.
Te’o’s teammates will likely disapprove of the attention that he will bring to the locker room, and
most importantly, Te’o will have more pressure on him to succeed than ever before. To be honest, at
this point in his life I really don’t think Te’o can handle that type of pressure and criticism. He’s no Tim
Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending to an underdog story just as much as the next guy,
and would love to see him prove me wrong, I just don’t think it will happen. Te’o’s 4.82 40 time proves
that there are 12 defensive linemen and 2 offensive linemen in the draft that are faster than him, and
not just slightly faster. Linemen that weight 270 plus pounds were running in the 4.6 range. Now, I know
there are some freakishly athletic linemen out there, but still not a good look for Te’o.
Te’o’s lack of speed was obvious when he faced real competition in the National Championship
game against Alabama. What do you think NFL scouts are thinking when they picture him trying to
tackle running-backs like Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, or Ray Rice? I’m no expert NFL scout or
anything, but they are probably thinking the same thing I am right now: overrated.