Notre Dame inside linebacker and eHarmony’s worst nightmare, Manti Te’o, will be among the draft-eligible players participating in the NFL Combine later this week in Indianapolis. It is at this event that players provide NFL teams a further look at what talent they have to offer. Out of any of the other players entering the draft, perhaps Te’o needs this event the most.
After being at the center of one of the strangest news stories of the modern sports era, Te’o will be able to participate in an event that calls only for his physical prowess. At the NFL Combine he won’t need to answer any questions about his personal life. No microphones. Just clipboards and stopwatches.
The Heisman runner-up has a steeper hill to climb than the other participants. He not only has to impress but impress to the point where a team will consider it worthwhile to take a chance on a player with psychological baggage. NFL teams have taken players with issues of personal conduct. Dallas decided it would be worth it to assign wide receiver Dez Bryant personal bodyguards to keep him out of trouble. But an organization cannot regulate the mental state of its players. Aside from possible counseling, there is not much an organization can do to ensure Te’o is mentally prepared for the life of a professional athlete.
Either way Te’o is portrayed from the fake girlfriend hoax, the victim or possible conspirator, the persona that results is not one any upper management would feel comfortable having in their locker room.
For one, players in the NFL receive lots of attention. In addition to a possible lucrative income, how would he be able to handle that?
Let’s not forget about the other players in the locker room. Imagine the potential hazing Te’o would receive. I can already almost hear the rapid typing of ridiculous profiles to request friendship on draft day. With the finances his future teammates would have access to, I can’t imagine what else they might have in store for him.
But the most important concern deals with whether he will be mentally prepared to go through the strains of training camp, learn the defensive plays and study the strategies and aspects of professional offenses. These tasks will not be well done by Te’o, who is still distressed and distracted by the past.
These are all concerns that NFL teams will have to consider when evaluating Te’o. But an impressive outing at the combine would minimize these concerns. Talent has always been the main priority when it comes to drafting players, and this will work to his advantage.
Showing that his mind is focused and his performance unaffected would keep Te’o from falling out of the first round, and it would be the first step in leaving the hoax behind.