Te'o doing tough balancing act at NFL combine

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm •  Published: February 23, 2013
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"It's definitely embarrassing. You walk into grocery stores and people give you double takes to see if they're staring at you," he said before explaining he's moved on. "If I was embarrassed, I wouldn't be able to stand in front of you."

The only thing that really matters in Indy, though, is what team officials think. Te'o said in the two formal interviews he's had, with Green Bay and Houston, they have asked about the hoax. He has another 18 interviews left.

Will it hurt his draft position?

Former NFL executive Bill Polian, architect of four Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and two in Indianapolis, has been adamant that it won't, and coaches and general managers seem to agree.

Most say they are more concerned with the red flags of other players -- drug use, alcohol abuse, academic woes and even criminal allegations -- than they are with Te'o's tale.

"Somebody that's not truthful, that's big, to me. I'm a big fan of the 'Judge Judy' show. And when you lie in Judge Judy's courtroom, it's over. Your credibility is completely lost. You have no chance of winning that case," San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. "I learned that from her. It's very powerful, and true. Because if somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they ever say after that?"

Two questions later, he was asked whether that meant the reigning NFC champs would avoid Te'o in April's draft.

"No. I wouldn't say that," Harbaugh said.

Te'o and the general public weren't the only ones watching the interview session Saturday.

Team officials are taking notes, too.

"Honestly, it's a distraction. If he can handle that distraction and still be able to perform on the football field, I really don't think it makes that much of a difference," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said before Te'o spoke. "We'll talk about it, we'll find out about it. The bottom line is, is he a good person and can he play football?"

On the field, Te'o's is one of the top linebackers available.

Last season, he won the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award and Walter Camp national player of the year and finished second in balloting for the Trophy.

But there are concerns. Te'o was asked if the undercurrent of the hoax explained his poor play in Notre Dame's BCS championship game loss to Alabama. He has said it didn't.

"They want to be able to trust their players. You don't want to invest in somebody you can't trust," Te'o said. "With everybody here, they're just trying to get to know you as a person and as a football player, and I understand where they're coming from."

But the hardest part has been seeing the impact it's had on those around him.

In a phone call, Te'o said his sister explained how the family had to sneak into its own house because of the people parked in the front yard, and he also said he empathized with the chaos it has caused Tuiasosopo's family. He said he has no plans to sue, either.

Instead, Te'o just wants to forget about the hoax and focus on football.

"I've learned first, just to be honest in everything you do, from the big things to the small things. To keep your circle very small and to really understand who's in your corner and who's not," he said. "Going off of the season my team and I had, there were a lot of people in our corner, and then when Jan. 16th happened, there was a lot of people in the other corner. I've just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me."



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