By Jordan Raanan, Xfinity Sports
Indianapolis, IN – Every player gets poked and prodded at the NFL Scouting Combine. That’s why they’re here. They’re physically and mentally interrogated by 32 future employers and the media.
Depending on their performance and past, each player faces a varying degree of scrutiny. None have encountered anything near the level of attention former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o received on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
By now, you know his story. Te’o was duped by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo into believing he was involved in an online relationship with an imaginary young lady who died from cancer. It was on TV, in every newspaper and analyzed and mocked on every website. Te’o did a 1-on-1 with ESPN (off camera) and another with CBS’ Katie Couric in the aftermath of the scandal’s unveiling last month.
The Te’o press conference on Saturday was the first time he met an assembled group of media. We were waiting in masses, with some 200 media members crowded around a 15×10 podium. The NFL media combined with some network news cameras waited to pepper a football player trying to improve his draft stock.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Te’o said. “I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this.”
Just like he did most of his senior season at Notre Dame, Te’o dominated. He aced the press conference. He answered everything thrown in his direction with rare grace and apparent openness not often seen from college football players.
To be honest, Te’o couldn’t have come off much better as he tries to put the catfishing hoax to rest. He was blunt and to the point when asked if he was embarrassed by the whole situation.
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “For anybody to go through, it’s definitely embarrassing. When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like giving people double-takes to see if they’re starting at you, it’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, it’s part of the journey. You know it’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.”
That’s a good thing. The spotlight has the possibility of getting bigger. South Bend may be a college football hotbed, but it’s not the bright lights and big city of, say, New York, Boston, Philadelphia or most other NFL cities.
For a while longer, the spotlight on Manti Te’o will continue to be intense. But as long as he handles himself like he did on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine, the soon-to-be NFL player will be just fine.