By Dave Thomas
Name: Manti Te’o – LB – #50
Weight: 241 lbs.
Hometown: Laie, Hawaii
College: Notre Dame
Regardless of whether Notre Dame superstar Manti Te’o lived up to the hype or not last year for the Fighting Irish is in the past. For now and moving forward, Te’o is sporting blue and gold, the colors of the San Diego Chargers.
A season ago, Te’o was playing for one of the most storied college football programs in history. He led a season that transitioned from major hype and promise to an embarrassing beating of 42-12 from Alabama in the BCS National Championship.
And who can forget the off-the-field drama of his “imaginary” girlfriend? Nearly everyone jumped to the conclusion that he knowingly went along with the ploy to create attention and sympathy. Te’o went from the player everyone was secretly rooting for to an embarrassment to the league and one of the most despised players of all time.
Te’o was seen as a sure first round pick prior to his scandal. Teams were scared away from him, fans were worried they would have to end up rooting for him, and it seemed like Te’o will never be able to fully change opinions of the majority of football fans.
Regardless of the negative press, the Chargers needed a jolt on defense, and selected Te’o with the 38th pick of the NFL Draft.
He is now suiting up for a team that has gone three straight years missing the playoffs and will have the pleasure of competing against AFC West offensive stars such as running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Peyton Manning. He needs to be able to add some spark to his new defense, and after being selected in the second round, it’s expected that he will start the season as a starting linebacker.
So, is Manti Te’o the real deal or not?
Early word coming out of Chargers’ training camp is that Te’o could very well be a pleasant surprise come this fall. For the Bolts, getting solid play out of the rookie would definitely be a welcomed addition in light of the season-ending knee injury to linebacker Jonas Mouton, plus the inability of former first round pick, linebacker Larry English, to be productive since coming to the team a couple of years ago from Northern Illinois.
Although many of San Diego’s problems on the defensive side of the ball the last few years have actually been in the secondary with cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason leaving for free agency, strength at the linebacker position has not been set in stone. Injuries to both English and Melvin Ingram have left the Chargers dangerously thin at that position recently. With Mouton out for this season, many eyes will in fact turn to Te’o.
While every team enters the season 0-0, fans in San Diego just might like what they see from this revamped team.
If the Chargers get a season’s worth of production from one Manti Te’o, that run of three straight years watching the playoffs on television may just end in shocking fashion.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.