Tebowmania remains hot up in Boston even with the murder charges circling the team, which reminded me to check in on the second-most overexposed football player of 2012: Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Unlike Tebow, who still sucks as far as anyone can tell, Te’o is proving his worth in offseason workouts with the San Diego Chargers.
It’s still difficult to separate Te’o from the catfishing scandal that plagued him last year — his dying online girlfriend turned out to be a living, lying dude — but Te’o appears determined to make that embarrassing personal mistake yesterday’s news by playing great football.
The scandal lowered Te’o's draft value; potential teammates voiced doubts that they’d ever be able to take him seriously, and coaches suspected that poor life decisions portended weak leadership skills. For the Chargers, he’s turning out to be one of the best draft bargains of the 2013 class. That stems, in large part, from Te’o's determination to keep his head down and focus on training. He can’t erase people’s memories, but he can prove his talent and work ethic.
The irony is before Te’o became a punchline, Notre Dame prized him for his instincts and intelligence. He’s not an exceptionally fast or agile linebacker, but he has a knack for predicting offensive decisions and adapting established plays to unexpected situations. To me, Te’o looks like the football equivalent of the guys on The Big Bang Theory: a mess in everyday life, but a genius in his own domain.
You can contact Sarah Rasher on Twitter @pas_dechat