*This article is part of our 2013 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
INDIANAPOLIS – The Texans were one of the first two teams to interview Manti Te’o at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. They got a head start on several hundred reporters.
Seemingly every one of the 800-plus members of the media covering this year’s Combine huddled around Podium C in the media work room at Lucas Oil Stadium for Teo’s press conference on Saturday afternoon. The Notre Dame star and Heisman Trophy runner-up, Mike Mayock’s No. 2-rated inside linebacker in the 2013 draft, talked for more than 14 minutes, with many of the questions centering around the Lennay Kekua Internet hoax.
“I’ve said all I need to say about that,” Te’o said. “How I’m handling it going forward is doing what I’m doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the Combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there’s thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. Just trying to enjoy the moment.”
Questions about the Kekua situation and its fallout persisted throughout Teo’s press conference, just as they have since the hoax was first revealed by a Deadspin report on Jan. 16.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” Te’o said. “When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like giving people double-takes to see if they’re staring at you, it’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process; it’s part of the journey. It’s only going to make me stronger, and it definitely has.
“I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. Hopefully, by doing the things I can control well, I’ll have more favor in the other category. Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do my best to help the team win.”
Te’o met with coaches from the Texans and Green Bay Packers on Friday night. He is scheduled to meet formally with 18 more teams while in Indianapolis. He said every team asks him about the incident, which he understands, but that he is ready to move on and focus on football.
“I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard, somebody who hates to lose,” Te’o said. “I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ The reason why I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. It’s those times where I lose that feeling that will stick with me. For teams, I tell them, ‘You’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much and will do everything it takes to win.’”
Te’o was poised and sincere in his press conference, which several longtime NFL reporters said drew by far the largest crowd in Combine history. Texans coach Gary Kubiak told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that Te’o was similarly impressive in his interview with the Texans on Friday.
“He stood his ground, wasn’t gun shy,” Kubiak said. “Lot of poise. He had it under control. He’s ready to move forward. Everybody wants to check his sincerity and see if you can trust him. I was impressed with the young man.
“He’s a darn good player, and we’re looking at inside linebackers. He just said, ‘Here’s my story,’ and told us. He answered our questions. He wasn’t defensive. He’s an effort player, can run and hit. There’s a lot to like.”Twitter.com/NickScurfield