Story by WLS Web Writer Kim Rasmussen
Former University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o went sixth in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft to the San Diego Chargers.
Te’o became the 38th overall pick and the second Fighting Irish player taken in this year’s draft. The Chargers traded with Arizona, moving up seven spots to make the selection.
Te’o was originally thought to be a first round pick. However, his performance in the National Championship and slow offseason training and testing at the combine are thought to have set him back.
It is also thought that teams may have backed off due to the girlfriend hoax that made news in January. Broadcasters and sports professionals seemed leery of what dynamic Te’o would bring to the locker room.
“Manti Te’o is a once-in-a-generation type kid,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “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.”
Te’o is the highest drafted linebacker from Notre Dame since Demetrius DuBose was the 34th overall selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993. He is the fourth-highest drafted Irish linebacker since 1960. Bob Crable was chosen with the 23rd pick in the first round in 1983, while Myron Pottios was 19th overall in 1961 (second round).
Te’o is the first Irish player chosen by the Chargers since cornerback Willie Clark went in the third round of the 1994 draft. San Diego has now drafted 10 former Notre Dame players throughout NFL history.
In 2012, Te’o became the 33rd unanimous All-American in Notre Dame history. He was the first Irish defensive player to earn such an honor since cornerback Shane Walton in 2002. Te'o was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association, The Sporting News, The Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press selected him to their respective All-America squads.
Te'o was Notre Dame's fourth-ever unanimous All-America linebacker and first since Michael Stonebreaker in 1990 - also joining the likes of Jim Lynch (1966) and Bob Golic (1978).
Te’o was Notre Dame’s first Heisman Trophy finalist since quarterback Brady Quinn in 2006. He finished second with 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points – the most ever by a defensive player in college football history.
He captured the Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year, becoming the first player in college football history to sweep those seven awards. No other player in college football history had ever captured more than five major awards in one season.
Te'o, a Notre Dame team captain, was the leader of an Irish defense that ranked second nationally in scoring defense, only allowing 12.8 points per game. As a senior, he made 113 tackles and collected seven interceptions. Te'o registered three-straight 100-plus tackle seasons and ranks third in Notre Dame history for career tackles with 437.
His seven interceptions ranked tied for second in the Football Bowl Subdivision and leads all FBS linebackers. Te'o owns the school record for interceptions by a linebacker in a single season. No FBS linebacker has registered more single-season interceptions than Te'o since 2001. He generated nine total turnovers (two fumble recoveries), which was tied for tops in the FBS and played a role in 11 of the 23 turnovers forced by Notre Dame's defense.
Te'o was Notre Dame's 81st different player and 97th total selection to earn consensus All-America status - both more than any other school. The Irish have produced at least one consensus All-American in 30 of the last 44 seasons.
Te’o’s honors and awards:
• 2012 Heisman Finalist
• 2012 Walter Camp Player of the Year
• 2012 Maxwell Award
• 2012 Lombardi Trophy
• 2012 Bednarik Award
• 2012 Nagurski Award
• 2012 Butkus Award
• 2012 Lott Trophy
• 2012 Associated Press First Team All-American
• 2012 Sporting News First Team All-American
• 2012 AFCA First Team All-American
• 2012 Walter Camp First Team All-American
• 2012 ESPN.com First Team All-American
• 2012 CBS Sports First Team All-American
• 2012 Sports Illustrated First Team All-American
• 2012 Athlon Sports First Team All-American
• 2012 Pro Football Weekly First Team All-American
• 2012 First Team Capital One Academic All-America
• 2012 National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation
• 2012 First Team Capital One Academic All-America
• 2012 First Team Capital One Academic All-District
• 2012 Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP
• 2011 Associated Press Second Team All-American
• 2011 Walter Camp Second Team All-American
• 2011 Rivals Second Team All-American
• 2011 Phil Steele Second Team All-American
• 2011, 2010 SI.com Second Team All-American
• 2011 Capital One Second Team Academic All-American
• 2011 Lott Trophy Finalist
• 2011 Butkus Award Finalist
• 2011 Notre Dame’s Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year
• 2011 Lombardi Award Semifinalist
• 2010 Butkus Award Semifinalist
Te’o’s Notre Dame records:
• Single-Game Tackles (Sept. 25, 2010 vs. Stanford, 21, 6th)
• Career Tackles (2009-12, 437, 3rd)
• Career Tackles For Loss (2009-12, 34.0, 11th)
• Single-Season Interceptions By Linebacker (2012, 7, 1st)
• Single-Season Interceptions (2012, 7, t-6th)
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Read Manti Te’o’s interview with Chargers.com:
Chargers.com: So when did you realize you were going to be a San Diego Charger?
Te’o: Oh man, they just called me and another team was up, but I saw it was a California phone number. I answered and I was just excited.
Chargers.com: Who did you speak with? How did that conversation go?
Te’o: I was just so excited I can’t even remember. All I remember is them asking me, ‘How would you like to be a San Diego Charger?’ Then I talked to the owner and man, I’m just excited right now.
Chargers.com: Many predicted you would be a first round pick. Does the fact you fell into the second round motivate you?
Te’o: Oh definitely. It’s great motivation for me to go out there and just get better, and that’s what I intend to do.
Chargers.com: The Chargers traded up to get you so you know they really wanted you on this team. How much does it mean for you to have someone make a deal to make sure they got you?
Te’o: That means a lot to me. Being a Charger means a lot to me right now. It’s a great organization. The coaches and the front office, it’s a great organization and I want to reward them for picking me. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help us win.
Chargers.com: How much contact did you have with the Chargers during this draft process?
Te’o: I didn’t have too much contact until I went out on my team visit. Other than that it wasn’t a lot.
Chargers.com: There is a proud tradition of linebackers here in San Diego with Junior Seau. What is it like to join that rich tradition?
Te’o: It means I’m going to do whatever it takes to carry on that tradition that guys like him started. I want to make him proud. He was a dominant linebacker, and that’s what I want to be. This team has a history of great linebackers and I want to be a part of that tradition.
Chargers.com: The Chargers deploy a 3-4 defensive scheme. Were you hoping you’d be drafted on a team that played a 3-4?
Te’o: Notre Dame played a 3-4 the last few years, so for me I’ve got to learn the new terminology and I’ll go from there. But to be honest with you, it didn’t really matter to me if I went to a 3-4 or a 4-3. I have played both before.
Chargers.com: What are the strengths to your game?
Te’o: My football intelligence. The way I get to the ball and my pursuit. And another thing I take pride in is my overall effort.
Chargers.com: And what do you need to improve upon?
Te’o: You know, I need to learn to use my hands better and learn new techniques to get off blockers better. Sometimes I need to be more patient and depend on my instincts.
Chargers.com: You have dealt with a tremendous deal of scrutiny lately. How has that helped prepare you for the NFL?
Te’o: It’s definitely made me stronger. Dealing with adversity, it can hurt you or make you stronger, and it definitely made me stronger. That’s how I feel right now.
Chargers.com: Finally, here’s your first chance to say something to the San Diego Chargers fans. What message do you want to give to them?
Te’o: I want them to know they’ve got a player who really cares and loves this game. I’ll do whatever it takes to be the best. I understand that this is my job now and this is a job I love doing. You’ll see how much I love it when I play.