It’s impossible to get away from Manti Te’o. The media have latched on to this guy and the whole blogosphere and social media world are following along. He ran the 40 at Notre Dame pro day and you would’ve thought it was a run for a world record. It actually got more coverage than a run at a world record. Usain Bolt never got the coverage Te’o received. Which is sad for Bolt cause you know how that guy loves attention.
For the record, Te’o ran a 4.71 40 at Notre Dame pro day. That’s an improvement on his combine 40 time of 4.82. And that means what exactly? Who knows. According to the ESPN wonks, it solidifies Te’o's status as a first round pick. But I don’t know how anyone can say that. If Pittsburgh wanted him at 17 before the pro day, then he was already a first round pick. Is Pittsburgh going to want him more now that he’s shaved a little bit off his official 40 time? Maybe it matters that much to them.
I don’t know if the 40 time should matter or not matter. I do know that Manti Te’o matters to the ESPN brain wizards. I’m not talking about the on-air brain wizards but the backstage ones. The numbers crunchers. The guys with the Nielsen ratings graphs. The guys who determine which stories are getting the most buzz and therefore must be shoved down our throats with even greater Baylessian zeal. You can bet the Te’o story is showing up big on their charts. So there will be wall-to-wall Te’o from now till whenever.
You can’t help but be reminded of that other college legend with the last name ending in “T.” The fellow from Florida. What ever happened to him? ESPN seems to have cooled on him. They’re not hammering away on him as much as before. They’ve found a new object of fascination. There’s a new guy moving the needle down there in the bowels of Bristol where the geeks do their magic.
This has to raise some interesting questions for teams. How much does the hype affect their view of Te’o? Does “Media Circus Potential” show up on their checklist? Would a GM like Rick Spielman be chased away from Te’o despite his potential on-field value? It’s impossible to say. Rick has his own charts and graphs. There’s lots of stuff on there. 40 time is only one thing to consider. There’s also all that game tape. The games where he played like a Heisman candidate. And that one final game against Alabama where he played like a schlub.
Here’s all I know: once upon a time Te’o was considered a top ten lock. Then he played a terrible game against those maulers from Alabama. Then a bunch of crazy stuff came out about his online life. Then he ran a slow 40 time. He’s spent the last couple months trying to make everyone forget about that bad stuff. He’s answered a bunch of questions about the fake girlfriend. Deflected a bunch of criticism – or made a bunch of excuses depending on how you want to look at it. He’s run the 40 again and posted a better time. There isn’t much left for him to do now but sit and wait.
And on draft day? I only know one thing. Te’o won’t be in New York. The NFL invited him twice but he declined both times. That speaks well of his good sense or the good sense of his PR people at least. Why sit there squirming for the cameras? Te’o knows the score. He knows he could take a tumble. There may be a circus around him but that’s not his fault. He’s not going to play the freak for us. He’ll be tucked away someplace nice and safe, surrounded by his people.
Somebody will draft him, probably in the first round. And then ESPN can fire up stage 2. Manti Te’o training camp watch. Sal Paolantonio is on call. We may be seeing Sal camped out in Mankato. Bring your sunscreen, Sal.