The NFL Combine is meant to have players currently projected as borderline picks to prove their worth and raise their stock at the last minute. But for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, the Combine is a chance to try and restore his reputation and prove that the Lennay Kekua hoax has nothing to do with his NFL talents.
The first step in moving away from the hoax was fielding questions about it, something Te’o did pretty well this weekend. The second step was to actually prove he’s got the talent to be a first round pick by putting his skill on display for scouts in Indianapolis. Te’o ran his 40-yard dash on Monday and the result was an unofficial 4.81.
In case you’re not familiar with how 40-times are judged, a 4.81 for a linebacker is not good.
Having a fake girlfriend wasn’t the only thing Te’o had to worry about heading into the combine. His last performance of his college football career came in the National Championship game against Alabama and it was as unimpressive as his 40-yard dash time at the combine. After having a Heisman Trophy worthy season, Te’o disappeared in the Irish’s biggest game and the doubting if his talents began there.
The hoax, while not technically having a whole lot to do with his talent, didn’t help things.
Now Te’o has swung and missed for a third straight time, posting nothing better than a 4.80 in his two 40-yard dash attempts on Monday. A 4.80 time isn’t a death sentence for a linebacker, but it serves as further proof that Te’o is destined to be nothing more than a two-down linebacker in the NFL and it all but guarantees that he’s not going to be selected on the first or even the second day of the draft.
His draft status isn’t sealed yet, but if Manti Te’o wants to be a top draft choice in April, he’s going to have to put in some serious work over the course of the next month. Otherwise the climax of the Manti Te’o story will be nothing more than a footnote selection on the third day of the draft.