When the linebackers took their turn to shine at the 2013 NFL Combine, all eyes were on former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o. However, the native Hawaiian failed to impress, coming in at 14 pounds under his listed playing weight (241 compared to 255) while running a slower 40-yard dash than anyone expected.
In fact, NFL Draft experts on every channel, on every Twitter handle and for every newspaper (and yes, they still do print newspapers) were adamant in the fact that Te’o had to break 4.8 seconds to even remain a lock as a first-round selection.
What did the Heisman Trophy runner-up record?
A 4.82 — a seemingly meaningless differential that could wind up costing him millions of dollars in the upcoming Draft.
First, Te’o disappointed Irish fans worldwide with an awful performance as the Golden Domers’ captain in the BCS National Championship game. Then, the hoax perpetrated by Ronaiah Tuiasopopo was made public: Te’o’s girlfriend, whom the nation had been led to believe had died, had actually never existed in the first place.
Now, still facing questions on his performance, the hoax and even his sexuality, Te’o disappointed once again in both his Combine performance and his subsequent reaction.
Instead of exemplifying leadership qualities, Te’o made excuses, claiming the Combine is too hard.
“I was running near a 4.6, a 4.5,” Te’o told NFL Network after officially clocking a 4.82-second 40-yard dash. “Today was just a long, long day.”
On one level, of course, the linebacker is right. The Combine is unquestionably an extremely arduous gauntlet. There are the obvious physical pressures in having to succeed at tests that may or may not have any bearing on actual ability on the football field. Then there are the more subtle stresses.
Te’o spoke in front of what was far and away the biggest media horde at his press conference, and he interviewed personally with a whopping 20 teams.
However, talking to teams should have no bearing on a four- or five-second sprint — especially when millions of dollars are on the line.
But the pressures, both perceived and real, did get to Te’o.
And that might force NFL teams to invest those millions elsewhere.