There’s something to be said for being controversial, and San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te’o is a primary example. Put under the microscope and heavily scrutinized by all 32 NFL teams as well as the media for his hoax fiasco, Te’o fell all the way to the Bolts with the No. 38 overall selection in April’s 2013 NFL Draft. The Chargers feel like they have gotten a steal and a potential future Pro Bowl inside linebacker and it seems like the fans are in agreement.
It was announced that Te’o’s No. 50 with lightning bolts was the top selling rookie jersey from April 1 to June 30. Although his headlines were made for primarily off the field issues since his senior campaign with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to a rather unceremonious conclusion in a 42-14 beatdown in the National Championship game at the hands of Alabama, there is still a lot of belief that Te’o’s game will translate well to the next level.
He may have some physical limitations and some difficulty taking on blockers straight up, but his savvy positioning generally allows for Te’o to evade would-be blockers and make his way to the football. These instincts are something that really can’t be taught, and by all accounts the leadership intangible that he offers is his best asset of all. Te’o is the type of player that works hard every day in practice which leads to better results from the players around him as a subliminal motivation tactic.
Clearly the fact that his jersey was the top selling rookie shirt in the latest class has something to do with the lack of star power at the top. When three of the first four draft picks are offensive tackles and the first offensive skill position player, Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams, was the second highest selling rookie jersey, the most controversial figure is likely to drive sales.
It’s hard to know if it was the lack of a big-name quarterback or the off-field controversy that led to Te’o pacing all rookies in jersey sales, but there’s no doubt in the fact that he could make an immediate on-field impact for the Chargers in 2013. Look for the much-maligned linebacker to continue elevating his play and the play of those around him with his work ethic. Soon enough fans will be flocking to buy his No. 50 jersey for all the right reasons.