Manti Te'o must run fast, jump high and nail his interviews at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine if he has any hopes of changing the narrative surrounding his name.
Te'o's draft stock was sky high before the BCS title game. Some mock drafts even had him going in the top five—which was slightly insane—but the way he was leading the Fighting Irish to victory was stirring up national interest in the linebacker.
Then, he had the worst game of his life in the biggest game of his life. He was shoved around like a rag doll by Alabama's beastly offensive linemen and looked lost for most of the contest.
We wondered where it all went wrong for the Notre Dame linebacker, but shortly thereafter we learned about the infamous "catfish" scandal—a story that turned Te'o into a figure many people pitied or mocked, depending on their viewpoint.
Now that the dust has settled and Te'o's good name cleared of any wrongdoing, it's time for the Heisman finalist to turn things around, blow the combine out of the water and get us talking about all the things he does well on the football field once again.
Te'o must first and foremost post a fast 40-yard dash time. If he comes in and posts a 4.6-second time, his stock will take a hit. Guys like Alec Ogletree and Arthur Brown are likely to come in around 4.5-4.55 seconds (or faster), and in today's NFL, speed is paramount.
Last year, Luke Kuechly—a player with a similar skill set to Te'o—posted a respectable time of 4.58 seconds. If Te'o can match or exceed this number, he'll be fine.
Almost as important to Te'o's draft stock (from a pure football perspective) will be whether or not he looks smooth in positional drills and shows explosion on his jumps.
Above all else, though, Te'o must nail his interviews. All it will take is for someone to leak that he bombed an interview, and his draft stock will hit the skids.
Given the fact that Te'o looks to have bounced back from what is certainly the most embarrassing moment of his young life, I have no doubt of his ability to conquer the combine.
Te'o's senior year—minus the BCS Championship Game—was glorious. He tallied 113 tackles (55 solo), 1.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for a loss and a whopping seven interceptions.
He was a respected leader on a team that won by playing stifling defense, and nothing about him in this regard has changed.
If he runs well, jumps well and has teams glowing about his interviews, nobody will be talking about the "catfish" scandal. The only thing NFL analysts are going to be talking about is how good this kid can be at the next level.
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