Does Manti Te’o stink at the game of football? Absolutely not. The Notre Dame linebacker finished out his senior year with seven interceptions, 113 tackles and wound up second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.
However, the way most folks in the media and around football have been talking about the Irish captain since his squad was pummeled by Alabama in the 2013 National Championship game might lead one to believe that Te’o has about as good of a chance at succeeding in the NFL as his mom does.
After years upon years of punishing his body, sacrificing his days, nights, weekends, holidays, and everything else for the game, the young man is finally starting to get frustrated. Only Te’o will ever know exactly how much work he put into starring at Notre Dame and how much work he has put into the NFL Draft.
Only Te’o will know exactly what happened with regards to his fake dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and only Te’o will know how much — if at all — the news affected his play against Alabama.
Thus, it is the perception of outsiders, of those who cannot and will never know Te’o’s situation, that have frustrated the young man so much in recent months. He stated as much to Tim Twentyman of the Detroit Lions Insider.
“It’s a little frustrating that people look at one game and say that was the closest thing to an NFL team that I had faced, not giving credit to all the other teams that I played,” he told detroitlions.com. “So you’re saying Stanford isn’t an NFL team; Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and USC.
“(Alabama) is definitely a game I didn’t do as well as I could have, but it’s not something I felt could define my career at Notre Dame.”
The important thing, of course, is the fact that Te’o as a player understands his strengths as well as his weaknesses. After talking a little bit about his legacy, he looked forward. What can he bring to an NFL team? Can he play all three downs at the next level?
“I can always get better, and I’m going to get better,” said Te’o, who has been focused on new techniques the past couple months to help him get off blocks better, “but if anyone questioned my ability to cover, I had seven interceptions. That should say, ‘hey, he has the ability to play three-down football. …'”
“I’m just a kid who likes to play football,” Te’o said. “I think I’m always getting to the ball. My tenacity. My film study, my instincts and the way I diagnose plays (are my best assets).”
The Detroit Lions have the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, so they, in all likelihood, will not be selecting Te’o. After posting poor 40-yard dash times at the recent NFL Combine, his stock fell to what will presumably be a mid- to late-first round pick.