BRADENTON, Fla. -- Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o will be the center of attention when the NFL scouting combine opens later this week and most of the NFC South teams are likely to be watching closely.
Te’o has been in the headlines since it was revealed that he was the victim of what he said was a hoax that led him to have an online relationship with a woman that did not exist.
The story came to light soon after Te’o arrived at IMG Academy to begin preparing for the combine.
“He missed precisely one day,’’ said former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, the director of football operations at IMG Academy where Te’o has been preparing for the combine. “He’s gone about his business and been the same guy all along. I really admire that because a lot of guys his age would not be able to handle this as well as he has. I haven’t seen any signs of it being a distraction and I expect him to go up to Indianapolis and have a great combine.’’
Those closest to Te’o said he’s shown no signs of being distracted by the off-field drama.
“Manti has been the same Manti I went to college with,’’ said former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, who also has been working out at IMG. “He left to do the Katie Couric interview for one day and I think he was back that same night. He’s been out on the field working just like he’s always worked. I’ve tried to be there for him, but I don’t know that he’s needed all that much help because he’s such a strong person to begin with.’’
Teams are likely to grill Te’o about his situation during his individual interviews at the combine. Most draft gurus have been projecting Te’o as a likely first-round pick.
The Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers all pick in the middle of the first round and the Atlanta Falcons are scheduled to pick No. 30 overall. New Orleans needs some stability in its linebacker corps and Tampa Bay could be looking to add a linebacker because Quincy Black suffered a major injury last season. Carolina doesn’t appear to have much need at linebacker, but it remains to be seen if veteran Jon Beason will be a salary-cap casualty.
It may be a long shot that Te’o is still available when the Falcons pick. But, knowing how thorough the Falcons are, I’m sure they’ll do their homework on Te’o just in case.