SAN DIEGO (CBSNewYork/AP) — A hoax involving a fake girlfriend and a poor performance in the national championship game scared teams from drafting Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
These factors didn’t scare the San Diego Chargers away from picking Te’o in the second round of the NFL draft Friday.
Rookie general manager Tom Telesco traded with Arizona to move up seven spots and select Te’o with the 38th pick overall.
Te’o dropped into the second round for a number of reasons, including being tricked into a relationship with a girl that didn’t exist, struggling in the national championship game against Alabama and its offense full of future NFL draft picks, and some slow offseason workouts.
One of those Crimson Tide stars, right tackle D.J. Rucker, was selected by the Chargers with the 11th pick overall Thursday night.
The Chargers need inside linebackers because Takeo Spikes was released and Demorrio Williams is a free agent.
Two officials, each with a different team, said their clubs passed on Te’o in the first round partly because of his off-field issues. The men, speaking on condition of anonymity because team draft strategy is confidential, said the decision was not just because of a disappointing combine performance or the linebacker’s poor performance in the national title game.
The Heisman Trophy runnerup became the butt of national jokes after it was revealed he was duped into an Internet romance he had with a girlfriend he never met.
The too-good-to-be-true story began with Te’o’s incredible performances after learning his grandmother and what he believed was his girlfriend had died within hours of one another in September. Te’o said it inspired him to play his best football all season, and it was so compelling that it helped turn Te’o into a Heisman Trophy contender as he was leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and into the national championship game.
On Dec. 26, Te’o notified Notre Dame officials that he had received a call from his supposedly dead girlfriend’s phone three weeks earlier.
The school investigated and on Jan. 16 — after Deadspin.com broke the story of the fake girlfriend — athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced at a news conference that Te’o had been duped. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, later said he created the online persona of Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te’o said he fell in love with despite never meeting her in person.
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