Chargers move up to take LB Manti Te'o
Manti Te'o's fall from grace finally ended in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night at Radio City Music Hall when one team ignored all the controversy surrounding the Notre Dame linebacker and traded up to get him.
The San Diego Chargers moved up from No. 45 to No. 38, the sixth pick of the second round, in a trade with Arizona to grab Te'o. The Heisman Trophy finalist was projected as a first-round pick, but he played poorly in the BCS national title loss to Alabama and then was discovered to have been the victim of a "catfishing" scheme in which he was duped into an online relationship with a fake girlfriend.
Te'o's troubles were compounded when he ran a slow 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. But the Chargers were desperate for inside linebacker help because Takeo Spikes was released and Demorrio Williams is a free agent.
In an interview with Chargers.com Friday night, Te'o said the fact that general manager Tom Telesco believed in him "means a lot to me, and I want to reward them for picking me. I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to win."
As for his drop to the second round, Te'o added, "It's great motivation for me to go out there and just get better, and that's what I intend to do."
On Jan. 16, just over a week after the BCS title game, Deadspin.com broke the story that Te'o had been duped into falling in love with an online girlfriend known to him as Lennay Kekua. That persona was created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, a past acquaintance of Te'o. The linebacker told the heart-rending story of learning of his girlfriend's death in the same week his grandmother died.
That he could be so naive scared many teams away, along with his poor season-ending performance. Asked by Chargers.com how he has been affected by the experience, Te'o said, "Dealing with adversity, it can hurt you or make you stronger, and it definitely made me stronger."
Adding a message to Chargers fans, Te'o said: "I want them to know they've got a player who really cares and loves this game. You'll see how much I love it when I play."
Te'o may have been the most controversial selection of the second round, but the team that traded the pick to San Diego didn't shy from controversy in the third round. Arizona chose former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 Heisman finalist, who missed last season while undergoing drug rehabilitation.
Running backs finally were drafted after being shut out of the first round for the first time since 1963. Five went in round two: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard to Cincinnati at No. 37, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (No. 48, Pittsburgh), Wisconsin's Montee Ball (No. 58, Denver), Alabama's Eddie Lacy (No. 61, Green Bay) and Texas A & M's Christine Michael (No. 62, Seattle).