The waiting is finally over for Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o, who was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the sixth pick of the second round. For Te’o, it’s a silver lining landing spot after a disappointing slide dropped him out of the first round.
The former Irish linebacker heads to San Diego, about as good of a fit as he could have ever asked. On the field, there’s an open job at inside linebacker in the same 3-4 system he’s run the past few years in South Bend. Off the field, there’s the chance to follow in the footsteps of his hero Junior Seau, and play in a geographic location as close to home as possible.
Te’o spoke with Chargers.com after the selection and was his usual humble-yet-confident self, talking about the motivation that comes along with a draft day slide.
“It’s great motivation for me to go out there and just get better, and that’s what I intend to do,” Te’o said.
Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel caught up with Brian Kelly on Friday, and discussed Te’o’s mindset heading into the draft’s second round. As an Irish fan would expect, Te’o was far from crestfallen, and kept the positive attitude that he’s managed to carry with him for the past four years.
“We’ve become so close, it’s like your own kid going through it,” Kelly told Wetzel on Friday.
So on Friday morning, after the first-round draft snub brought the latest humiliation in what felt like an endless run of embarrassment for a player who otherwise is known as hardworking, dutiful, caring and talented, Kelly decided to call Manti.
“I called to cheer him up, but he wound up cheering me up,” Kelly said. “He was like, ‘Coach, I’ll be fine, I’ll get through this.’ It turns out the call was more for me than him.”
While Te’o has been the focus of most mainstream draft coverage, it’s worth mentioning that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith fell to one spot below Te’o. Eddie Lacy, the Alabama running back that did so much damage to Te’o’s on-field reputation, slide deeper into the draft as well, taken behind Big Ten running backs LeVeon Bell and Montee Ball. The presumed No. 1 pick in the draft heading into the season, USC’s Matt Barkley still hasn’t heard his name called.
With that in mind, it’s a nice end to an eventful first chapter of Manti Te’o’s football story. And after a turbulent few months, it gives Te’o the chance to just go back to being a football player, and doing so with a franchise that’s excited to have him.
For Irish fans, it also ends one of the most impressive individual careers in school history. Since walking onto campus as one of Charlie Weis’ signature recruits, Te’o led the Irish through a coaching transition and capped off his stellar career with a senior season for the ages.
With all the tabloid attention that’s followed him since playing his final game in an Irish uniform, Kelly put Te’o’s career at Notre Dame into perspective, something that’s clearly been lost for many over the past few months.
“Manti Te’o is a once-in-a-generation type kid,” Kelly said in a statement. “I’ve not been associated with a better player, leader and man in my tenure as a college football coach. He possesses all the instincts and talents necessary to be a top-flight NFL linebacker and the San Diego Chargers are fortunate to add his services.”