In the wake of Deadspin’s exposé Wednesday of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his deceased girlfriend who never existed, the story has only gotten more bizarre after Te’o's strange off-camera interview late Friday night.
As ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap relayed what Te’o had told him, the picture Te’o is apparently trying to paint for football fans appears to be one of either immense naïvety or pure stupidity. Either way, it’s pretty darn ridiculous.
If Te’o's idea of coming clean includes playing the “I didn’t know” card this hard, I can only imagine how NFL teams will grill him in pre-draft interviews in the coming weeks, as teams and players prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Manti Te’o said that he was not fully convinced that Lennay Kekua did not exist until Wednesday, after the Deadspin report came out. Come on. Just imagine what’ll happen when Te’o's Wonderlic score leaks in two months.
Sorry, Manti. I’m not buying it, and I don’t imagine that any explanation that comes out of his mouth is going to convince a team to select him in the top ten of the draft. My guess is he falls into the 15-20 range, regardless.
The Manti Te’o saga and subsequent explanation reminded me of the classic Saturday Night Live sketch, “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,” starring the late great Phil Hartman as the eponymous caveman lawyer, Keyrock.
Te’o is trying to play it the same way the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer played to his juries, trying to somehow make it believable that he’s dense enough to fall for a long-term girlfriend hoax, but still capable enough to play in the NFL.
“When I see a solar eclipse,” the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer character says, “like the one I went to last year in Hawaii, I think ‘Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?’ I don’t know. Because I’m a caveman, that’s the way I think.”
I hope Te’o realizes that the Unfrozen Caveman Linebacker defense isn’t going to fool the NFL scouts. If Te’o thinks the fallout is bad now, just wait until he meets with prospective employers at the NFL combine next month.
Despite everything, Manti Te’o is still a very talented player. Regardless of his gullibility or whatever exactly it is that caused him to get duped as bad as he says he did, he’s still going to have an opportunity to play at the highest level.
It’s up to him to make the most of that opportunity. No more gimmicks, or excuses. Be accountable and just play.
Oh, and try to take the inevitable rookie hazing in stride.