INDIANAPOLIS – Amid the runaway media feel-good over Manti Te’o’s appearance Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine was the occasional spot of harsh reality.
Te’o’s No. 1 question stems less from his catfishing episode, but his Alabama episode. His poor performance in the national-championship game against an offense with perhaps three first-round linemen has come up and will again.
“I mean, he seems like a great guy to me,” said Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker, projected by some analysts as falling to the Bears at No. 20. Of course, Fluker didn’t necessarily see a lot of the Notre Dame middle linebacker in the blowout Alabama win for the National Championship.
“As far as me, I really didn’t see [Te’o] that much. I saw the other linebackers,” Fluker said, then added with a laugh, “He had to go against [guard and projected first-rounder] Chance Warmack.”
Te’o saw a great deal of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, who ran 20 times, many of them over or around Te’o, for 140 yards. Tide offensive players knew of the build-up around the Notre Dame defense and its Heisman-nominee middle linebacker.
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So as far as making Te’o disappear, “it was just a mind-set,” Lacy said with a laugh. “As an offense…we heard about their defense up until that game.
“So we wanted to make our own statement. We wanted to come out and dominate and we were able to do that.”
Te’o did not back away from accountability for what happened, and didn’t happen, in the debacle vs. Alabama. The reason he didn’t play well was “because I didn’t,” Te’o said. “That’s all on me. I played hard and so did my team, but Alabama had a great game plan and so did we. They executed better than we did.”
And Te’o’s teammates were not buying into the anti-hype about his catfishing debacle.
“He's a smart, smart guy,” tight end Tyler Eifert said. “He didn't do anything wrong.”