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April 28, 2013
The grilling that was said to await Manti Te’o once he tangled with the NFL media either was overplayed or will come somewhere down the road after the former Irish great stood at the podium in San Diego Saturday, answering questions with Chargers first-round draft choice D.J. Fluker, an offensive tackle from Alabama, and third-round draft selection Keenan Allen, a wide receiver from Cal.
Asked how he explained to teams that the Ronaiah Tuiasosopo/Lenny Kekua hoax could happen to anybody and how the situation that arose was not indicative of him, Te’o calmly answered the question and was not asked about the situation again during his 10 minutes at the podium.
“I just concentrated on me being me,” Te’o said. “What I learned from that is you can control certain things and you can’t control other things. So control the things you can and leave the things you can’t control up to those people.
“I’m just happy to get out there and share my side of the story and to just tell them, ‘Hey, what happened happened, and what I’m here to do is play football.’”
The rest of the questions directed at Te’o focused on his performance against Alabama, his emotions toward getting drafted by the Chargers, the reactions of his new teammates, his linebacker role models, his propensity for causing turnovers, and his fit in San Diego’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
His sub-par performance against the Crimson Tide in the 42-14 loss in the BCS championship game was the main focus of the questioning.
“That’s one game,” Te’o explained. “Obviously, it’s a game that I would love to have back. But I think I had a very successful collegiate career, and I hope to have that much success in the NFL.”
Te’o said Notre Dame’s inexperience in a game of that magnitude played a role in the one-sided performance.
“We were a very young team, and we were even more young since we didn’t have that type of exposure to a big game like that,” Te’o said. “We were playing against a really good Alabama team, and there was a lot of anxiety that built up.”
Te’o said some of the San Diego players have reached out to him, including quarterback Philip Rivers and Fluker.
Te’o was asked about the nine turnovers he caused (seven interceptions, two fumbles recovered) during his Heisman Trophy runner-up campaign.
“The strength of my game is my instincts,” Te’o said. “Those seven interceptions came with instincts and my study of film. I took another level of knowledge when it came to knowing my opponents, what they like to do, how they like to attack certain defenses and who their key guy was.
“With the help of my d-line and the other guys on the field, I was able to be in the right place at the right time to help my team win.”
Te’o is confident he’ll fit well in the Chargers’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
“Looking at the scheme, it’s very similar to what I ran at Notre Dame,” Te’o said. “There are a lot of similarities and familiarities there. Whether it’s the Mike or the (Will), I can play whichever one. I’ve played both in college, and there’s a level of comfort there.
“As far as me being a three-down linebacker, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win, and if that’s me being out there -- which is my goal to be that combo player that the coaches can count on -- that’s where I want to be. I’ll do what it takes to make sure my coaches and teammates can count on me on third down.”
Te’o said the late San Diego Charger great Junior Seau and recently retired Baltimore Ravens standout Ray Lewis are his linebacker inspirations.
“Junior was a trailblazer for kids like me,” said Te’o, noting their shared Samoan ancestry. “Everybody knows Ray Lewis, not only as a player, but what he does as a teammate, rallying his guys and being that leader. When he says something, people listen.
“I’ve always watched that enthusiasm and energy and tenacity they play with. When you watch those two guys play, you know they love the sport. Hopefully when they watch me play, they can see the love I have for this game as well.”
Irish in the draftFour Notre Dame players were selected in the third and final day of the 2013 NFL draft, which covered rounds four through seven.
Safety Jamoris Slaughter was the seventh pick of the sixth round (175th overall) by the Cleveland Browns. The Detroit Lions tabbed running back Theo Riddick 24 picks later (No. 199 overall). Defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore was the very next pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Safety Zeke Motta was the 38th pick in the seventh round (244th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons.
Tight end Tyler Eifert was the No. 21 pick of the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The six Irish players drafted were the most since 2007 when seven Notre Dame players were selected.
The Cleveland Browns signed former Irish center Braxston Cave to a free-agent contract. Guard Mike Golic, Jr., signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers while the Houston Texans inked a deal with running back Cierre Wood.
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