The NFL scouting combine is coming up, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has the opportunity to make his infamous hoax a distant memory.
Shortly after the BCS Championship Game, which his Fighting Irish lost to Alabama 42-14, it was revealed that Te'o's allegedly deceased girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was not actually real and that the story of her death and their relationship was a hoax. Rather, it was the workings of a man by the name of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Te'o claimed to be the victim of a prank gone bad, but it did not stop the media from giving him a ton of unwanted and negative attention. Of course, his draft stock went from being a surefire first-round pick to highly uncertain.
Fortunately, Te'o now has the opportunity to use the combine to show scouts just why they fell in love with him in the first place. Whether he was involved in the Lennay Kekua hoax or not, it does not take away from the fact that he is an excellent linebacker with a great deal of potential on the NFL level.
Keep in mind that Te'o has solid size for the position at 6'2", 255 pounds, and has an explosive first step that gives him a beast-like presence in the backfield. In four years at Notre Dame, he registered 212 tackles, 34 of which were for a loss.
His pass-rushing game was not as spectacular, what with Te'o only having 8.5 sacks in his four years, but that is not so bad as he is more of a coverage linebacker anyway. This can be seen in his senior season, in which he picked off seven passes.
Moreover, as quick as people are to blame Te'o for being connected to this hoax, they also quickly forget just how much potential he has. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2012 and also won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player.
That all being said, look for Te'o to have an extra bounce in his step when it's his turn at the combine. He's going to be determined to get the hoax off his back, and putting on a great show in every way possible in front of the scouts will all but ensure that.
However, that does not mean that Te'o is done with the hoax completely. People are going to ask him about it, and he needs to be up front about his actions. Long story short, he needs to say something along the lines of, "I was gullible and screwed up, but I'm determined to put that situation behind me and focus on being a top NFL player. I'm here to learn, become a better player and person, and I'm not going to let personal matters get in the way of that."
This means that Te'o must not shy away from the subject in any type of interview while also being a beast on the field. He must stay focused and not back down from any challenge, fighting to prove that he does belong in the NFL.
If he can do all that and more at the combine, then his future will be looking bright long before he gets drafted.