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Catfish creator Nev Schulman believes Manti Te’o’s story

manti teo notre dameOver two months have passed since Manti Te’o’s relationship with Lennay Kekua was exposed as a fraud, and still some people don’t know what to believe. NFL teams had to decide whether they could trust the former Notre Dame linebacker when evaluating him as a draft prospect.

One thing Te’o has going for him is that Nev Schulman, the creator of the show “Catfish” and someone who once fell for a hoax, believes Te’o’s story.

“Unfortunately my opinion on the matter is pretty tame. I think just like Manti says, he got involved in this relationship and started out as a small correspondence and it grew and grew. The more someone opens up to you the more inclined you are to open to them. Then all of a sudden when they are the victim of illnesses and car accidents you feel the need to be there for them, as they would for you. And before you know it you’re in a relationship. So I don’t think there was much of a deeper plotline, but of course one never knows,” Schulman told The Wall Street Journal.

Schulman told The Journal that his experience of being fooled was similar to Manti’s, and even involved a car accident story.

People will believe what they want, but I’m inclined to think like Schulman and believe Te’o’s story. Maybe some teams believe Te’o’s story while others do not. That’s probably one of many reasons his stock has fallen in the draft. Between a poor combine showing, poor national championship game, and the hoax, teams seemed to be scared away from the linebacker.

Some people think Te’o may go late first round, whereas others feel that is unlikely because he does not project as a three-down linebacker in the pros. We’re guessing he ends up selected late in the first round.

See all the stories related to the Manti Te’o hoax.

Manti Te’o improves his 40-yard dash time at Notre Dame pro day (Video)

Manti-Teo-40-yard-dashManti Te’o appears to have gotten a bit faster over the past month, and the timing should work out nicely. With the NFL Draft a month away, Te’o participated in Notre Dame’s pro day on Tuesday with a goal of improving upon the unimpressive 40-yard dash time he posted at the NFL Combine last month. He succeeded.

According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, Te’o ran a 4.71 and a 4.75 on Tuesday. Of course, that depends on who is holding the stopwatch and human error comes into play. One AFC scout clocked Te’o as low as 4.68. In any event, he was certainly faster than the 4.82 he posted at the Combine.

In reality, shaving 1/10th of a second off his 40 time will probably have a minimal effect on Te’o’s draft stock. Inside linebackers aren’t really judged on straight-line speed. Most experts expect Te’o to go somewhere in the late first or early second round, and that should still hold true. If nothing else, improving the 40 shows that he has been working hard over the past month. When you’ve dealt with the types of distractions Te’o has dealt with, improving in physical drills is always a plus.

Manti Te’o reportedly declines invitation to attend NFL Draft

Manti Te'o combineManti Te’o reportedly will not attend the NFL Draft in New York City after turning down invitations to be there.

Te’o worked out Monday at Notre Dame’s Pro Day and improved his draft stock by running a 4.71 40-yard dash time, which improved upon the 4.82 time he clocked at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

Reporters said after the workout that neither Te’o nor Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert plan to attend the draft in New York.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Te’o turned down two invitations to attend the draft. He adds that unless Te’o was believed to be a top-10 pick, it was unlikely that he would attend.

It’s not at all a surprise to hear that Te’o won’t be in attendance for the draft. After all the time he spent in the spotlight during January and February because of the girlfriend hoax story, why would he want to subject himself to unnecessary attention?

Jon Gruden not concerned about Manti Te’o’s performance against Alabama

manti teo notre dameManti Te’o has given critics many reasons to doubt him leading up to the NFL Draft. He posted a poor 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, he was dominated by Alabama’s offense in the BCS National Championship Game, and there was that whole fake girlfriend thing. Despite these strikes against him, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden still believes in the former Notre Dame linebacker.

Gruden interviewed Te’o for his pre-draft “QB Camp” that is typically just for quarterbacks. After spending time with Te’o, he felt confident in the man who finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.

“He really understands the big picture,” Gruden said of Te’o, “how coverages work and how blitzes work. He’s got a vast amount of football expertise and it showed [during our interview].”

Gruden also told ESPN “NFL Live” host Trey Wingo that he thinks Te’o can overcome the girlfriend hoax story for which he has become known.

“I think he’s handled [questions about the fake girlfriend] fine. I think it’s time to move on.”

Even if Te’o can get past the jokes about the girlfriend hoax, people still have concerns over his ability that stem from his poor performance in the national championship game. Gruden dismissed those concerns, instead choosing to credit Alabama rather than discredit Te’o.

“I don’t have that much of a concern. I watched Alec Ogletree from Georgia play against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. I watched [linebacker Kevin] Minter from LSU play against Alabama. All of the linebackers got rolled by the Tide if you ask me. Alabama was the best team in the country,” Gruden told Wingo.

Though Gruden won’t use the national championship game as knock against Te’o, he does see areas where the former Notre Dame linebacker needs to prove himself.

“He’s got to run faster. The one thing he needs to prove is that he can play every down. He’s got to be comfortable in space against Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham and some of these Corvettes that we’re seeing in the National Football League today. His Pro Day will be very important to him.”

I appreciate Gruden’s analysis of Te’o. It has become popular to pile on Te’o, and most people have been ignoring some of the things he does do well. He was a top recruit out of high school, played well during college, and he seems to know where to be on the field. He had seven interceptions last season which says a lot to me about his presence on the field. That amount is almost unheard of for a linebacker.

Te’o does have a lot left to show at his Pro Day, but he is nowhere near as bad as others are making him out to be.

You can watch Gruden talk about his day with Te’o in the video below:

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Antonio Smith: Manti Te’o ‘would be the butt of every joke’ in Texans locker room

Manti Te'o combineIf Manti Te’o intends to enjoy a successful NFL career, he is going to have to carry with him some pretty thick skin. No matter what the former Notre Dame linebacker says or does, he is never going to escape the embarrassment of the fake girlfriend hoax he supposedly fell victim to.

Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith reminded us of that this week. According to Smith, Te’o had better be prepared for some serious heckling in the event that he gets drafted by the Texans.

“Our locker room is full of clowns and, oh, man people would kill him,” Smith told NBC Sports Network’s Pro Football Talk. “I mean he would be the butt of every joke for at least two, three years.”

By that time, Te’o should be more than used to being ragged on. If Te’o’s NFL teammates keep quiet about the hoax, there is always going to be an elephant in the room. Once he begins his professional career, the best thing Te’o can do is just accept the verbal beating and laugh it off.

“You just got to be a good sport, man, it is what it is and you know it is out now, it’s out in the papers and on TV, so all you can do now, you can’t worry about it, you can’t change it, all you can do now is laugh — laugh with us while we’re laughing at you,” Smith said.

Terrell Suggs recently said the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens would welcome Te’o into their locker room, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give him a hard time. Te’o has already heard it from airline companies and hotel chains, so what’s a little more ribbing? Lord knows he already has enough to worry about with that disappointing display he put on in the 40-yard dash.

Could LeBron James run a faster 40 than Manti Te’o?

Manti Te'o combineManti Te’o was hoping to put some of the talk about his fake girlfriend to rest with a solid performance at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but his performance in the 40-yard dash on Monday threw a kink in those plans. Te’o posted a time of 4.82, and like most of us LeBron James was not impressed.

According to the South Florida SunSentinel’s Ira Winderman, some of the Miami Heat players were discussing the Combine in the locker room on Tuesday before their game against the Sacramento Kings. LeBron claimed that he ran a 4.6 while training last summer and noted that he did it without training for the 40.

“It’s better than Manti Te’o,” LeBron said. “I’ll tell you that.”

What do you think? My gut instinct tells me LeBron is probably faster than Te’o, but have a look at the following clip just to give you some sort of idea:

Based on our very unofficial calculation, King James went about 75 feet in 3.6 seconds in the clip you see above. If you extrapolate that to 120 feet — or a 40-yard dash — that would give LeBron a 40 time of 5.77. That’s incredibly slow, but it looked like LeBron barely even had to try to spring free and catch that pass from Wade. He was clearly slowing to attack the basket and didn’t appear to be running full out. If he can get 5.77 with little effort, I’d be willing to be he could shave a second off that time if he actually gave it his all in a 40-yard sprint. Advantage: LeBron.

As for Te’o, his draft stock will likely fall even further after the lack of speed he displayed, despite the fact that he insists Monday was just a “long day” and that he usually runs the 40 in about 4.5 or 4.6 seconds. It was bad enough for the former Notre Dame linebacker that he has had to answer nonstop questions about the unfortunate hoax he fell victim to. His uninspiring 40 time could lead to even more headaches.

Photo credit: Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports

Manti Te’o says 40 time was slow because Combine exhausted him

Manti Te'o combineManti Te’o was already facing enough challenges entering the NFL Combine, and he didn’t help himself with his performance in his 40-yard dash Monday.

The Notre Dame product clocked a 4.82 time in the 40, which is enough for teams to drop him further down their draft boards. However, Te’o claims he usually runs a 4.5 or 4.6 in the 40. He told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock that he was not at his peak because the Combine process has exhausted him.

“I was running near 4.6, 4.5. Today was just a long, long, long day,” Te’o said when asked by Mayock to explain his 40 time. “That’s what I’m going to do — keep training and make sure that when my pro day comes, I’m running those numbers.”

Host Rich Eisen asked Te’o to rate his performance.

“I did OK,” Te’o answered. “I can obviously do a lot better. A lot better, and that’s what pro days are for.”

Te’o says he has been going to bed around 12 or 1 a.m. and getting up around 4 or 5 a.m. each day. The Combine has probably been more exhausting for him than some others because so many teams wanted to meet with him.

I’m willing to give Te’o a pass on his poor 40 time at the Combine for a few reasons. One, I don’t think 40 times for a linebacker are too important. Two, I think it’s possible he was exhausted by the process; he’ll have much better schedules in the NFL that should allow him time to rest, so it’s not like he’ll be playing games on four hours of sleep.

Te’o needs to run a stronger 40 time at his pro day to prove that he is a performer rather than an excuse maker. But between the slow 40 time, the hoax, the excuse, and getting bulldozed by Alabama in the National Championship Game, Te’o is giving people a lot of reasons to doubt him.

Helmet smack to Pro Football Talk
Photo credit: Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports