Manti Te’o faces the media at NFL draft scouting combine
INDIANAPOLIS — Amidst an NFL scouting combine mostly devoid of fascinating or divisive personalities, the buzz prior to Manti Te’o’s meet-and-greet with the media was real, and it was spectacular.
Twice a swarm gathered for Te’o around podium C at the Lucas Oil Stadium media center — the first time, after an erroneous report that the Notre Dame linebacker would appear at noon ET.
Saturday marked the first time that the media, save for Katie Couric or Dr. Phil, had really had a chance to grill the disgraced Notre Dame star over his infamous Catfishing incident. Of Te’o’s approximately 15-minute press conference, almost every second was spent discussing the fallout from that headline-making situation.
“I said all I have to say about that,” Te’o said at the beginning of his press conference, before being asked to elaborate on a number of aspects.
“Quite a few (teams) have asked me about it — ‘tell me the facts’,” Te’o said. “They want to hear it from me.”
Despite facing what was by far the combine’s largest media gathering, Te’o stayed composed and answered every question he received, including one inquiring about if he currently has a girlfriend (he said he doesn’t).
“It’s been a whirlwind of stuff,” Te’o said of the time since Notre Dame lost to Alabama in the BCS title game, which, of course, includes the news that Te’o’s “deceased” girlfriend actually was a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
“I wanted to let everything come out, then let my side come out,” Te’o said. “That worked the best for me; it went as smoothly as it could.
“It’s pretty crazy … overwhelming at times.”
Te’o said he already has met with the Texans and Packers during the combine and will sit down with 18 more teams before the event wraps.
“They haven’t said anything about it affecting (my draft stock),” Te’o said.
The more pressing concern for teams considering Te’o as a draft pick might be the tape from the Irish’s bowl loss. There, both Te’o and the entire Notre Dame defense were pushed around by Alabama — easily the worst performance from each during the 2012 season.
While Te’o remains one of the top middle linebacker prospects in this year’s class, his struggles against the Crimson Tide combined with the startling revelation about his personal life has kept his outlook in limbo.
“I could have done some things different … a lot of things different to avoid this,” Te’o said. “It was definitely embarrassing. You walk into a grocery store, and people stare at you — I was embarrassed.”
But Te’o also told the media that he’s put that embarrassment behind him — “I’m past the point of being embarrassed. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
Even though Te’o faced the music Saturday, the questions about his off-field exploits will follow him through the draft process and into his NFL career. Te’o may be more at peace with that reality than ever.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to football,” Te’o said. “I’d really like to talk about football.”