If you’re the most decorated linebacker in the history of college football you would expect to get taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, but not if you’re Manti Te’o.
Te’o’s name was absent from last night’s draft board in Radio City Music Hall and at the end of the day (or night in this case) he has no one to blame but himself for that.
Sure some of the players chosen in Round One have baggage – criminal records, drug charges or flunking out of school. Te’o has baggage, too. Certainly not of that variety but of a girlfriend hoax that whether you want to believe it or not severely damaged his squeaky clean image.
Even as crazy as that whole soap opera was, it wouldn’t have kept him from being drafted in the first round.
Unfortunately for Te’o that whole fiasco was followed up shortly thereafter by his awful performance against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. He was manhandled by more talented players who showed their superiority over Te’o and his Irish teammates time and again.
As damning as that game was was for Te’o’s draft clout, it still shouldn’t have erased all he accomplished and achieved in his storied collegiate career and likely didn’t.
After all, one game usually doesn’t define a player’s NFL Draft stock, but Te’o’s abysmal performance against the Tide proved to be quite a blow as we arm-chair quarterback why he didn’t hear his name called last night in NYC.
Still, NFL brass would’ve dismissed that sad showing and written it off as just an off night for the Hawaiian All-American had it not been for Te’o’s nightmarish performance at the NFL Combine that followed weeks later.
Some Te’o supporters tried to soften the blow of him running a 4.82-second 40 and not looking in tip-top shape in Indianapolis. NFL brass didn’t listen. Speed is important in the NFL, especially for linebackers who are required to have very good lateral movement so they can run sideline to sideline and make tackles.
Te’o’s showing in Indy did him in and sealed his fate as far as any first-round draft hopes went. Yes, he somewhat recovered at Notre Dame’s Pro Day in late March, improving his 40 time by about one-tenth of a second. But it wasn’t enough. The damage had already been done.
Te’o will hear his name called tonight in the second round, but he’ll have to live with the fact that he’s one of the greatest draft day disappointments we’ve ever seen.
However, Te’o’s fall in such a short period of time is nothing short of remarkable. Back in November he was a lock to be selected high in the first round. Five months later he’ll have to “settle” for second-round money.
Now we’ll really see what one of Notre Dame’s most storied players ever is really made of. Does he use the first-round snub as motivation and prove all those that passed on him, including the Minnesota Vikings not once, not twice, but three times, wrong the same way Aaron Rodgers did or does Te’o indeed got down as perhaps the player who had the biggest fall from grace in the shortest amount of time?
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.