Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has dealt with scrutiny both on and off the football field dating back to January.
A poor showing in the BCS National Championship loss to Alabama put doubt in some minds about his pro potential. Prior to that game, he was thought to be securely among the top 10 picks of the NFL draft.
A less-than-stellar showing at the NFL Combine in February compounded the doubt.
Te’o improved his 40-yard dash time from 4.82 seconds at the combine to a reported 4.71 at his pro day last month, which has since moved him back into the first-round conversation for the NFL Draft later this month. But he told detroitlions.com during a pre-draft visit to Allen Park on Tuesday that one game and one workout shouldn’t define his football talents.
“It’s a little frustrating that people look at one game and say that was the closest thing to an NFL team that I had faced, not giving credit to all the other teams that I played,” he told detroitlions.com. “So you’re saying Stanford isn’t an NFL team; Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and USC.
“(Alabama) is definitely a game I didn’t do as well as I could have, but it’s not something I felt could define my career at Notre Dame.”
Te’o had one of the more impressive all-around seasons for a linebacker in NCAA history this past year. His seven interceptions were second most in the country and his 113 tackles and 11 passes defended helped earn him the runner up for the Heisman Trophy.
The seven interceptions are particularly impressive after not recording one his first three years at Notre Dame. Te’o says it’s proof that he’s a three-down linebacker at the next level.
“I can always get better, and I’m going to get better," said Te'o, who has been focused on new techniques the past couple months to help him get off blocks better, "but if anyone questioned my ability to cover, I had seven interceptions. That should say, ‘hey, he has the ability to play three-down football.'"
Te’o played middle linebacker his entire college career and is widely considered to be a middle-to-late first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
The Lions have middle linebacker
“I’m just a kid who likes to play football,” Te’o said. “I think I’m always getting to the ball. My tenacity. My film study, my instincts and the way I diagnose plays (are my best assets).”