Te'o's Leadership in Question

Charles E. Sutton | 2/22/2013, 9:16 p.m.

Manti Te'o was duped by a supposed friend when it came to an online relationship. Then he lied about his girlfriend to his family and the world. However, as far as the NFL Draft goes, how much will that piece of knowledge damage him? Because once the dust settles, what scouts want to know more of is how he will perform on the field.

As the NFL Scouting Combine began this week in Indianapolis, one of the most talked-about players has been the Notre Dame linebacker, a star defender until he became a poster child and national punch line for the term catfishing.

Before everyone knew that his online relationship was with a girl that never existed, Te'o was perceived as someone with solid intangibles. When you take into account that he plays middle linebacker, his leadership qualities will be very important in the NFL. Look at players like London Fletcher and Ray Lewis, and you'll quickly see that's where his stock has been hurt.

Te'o is fully aware of what he needs to do but is hopeful that his draft standing is based on ability, not fabrication blended with naivete.

"I don't understand how it takes away from what I did on the field," Te'o told USA Today. "As far as my stock dropping or rising, that's not up to me. The only thing I have to do is just do well, run fast, just be myself, be quick." He's absolutely right. But, that doesn't mean some squads won't have mixed feelings.

"There are two schools of thought," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "One is most of us have made mistakes at age 21, and the kid's nave, and it's embarrassing. But it shouldn't really hurt the kid because it's not like one of those major things where you say we can't have him on our team. Some other teams are going to look at him and say he lied to his father. He had a chance when he found out about what really happened, he had a chance to tell the nation, and he lied to the nation. And do you want a liar in your locker room?"

So, we'll see how well Te'o performs at the Combine. If he performs up to his potential, perhaps less attention will be given to his life off the field. In the final analysis, the question still remains: As an NFL middle linebacker, can Te'o provide the required leadership?