Manti Te'o: 'I don't understand how it takes away from what I did on the field'

J. Meric

The interviews at the 2013 NFL Combine are likely to be the most important aspect of the next week for former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has kept a low profile in the weeks following a bizarre scandal to begin the year, but he broke that silence in an interview with Jim Corbett of USA Today in which he said that he doesn't believe his draft stock will be affected by the situation.

"I have to just go out there and perform and all that other stuff is behind me," he told USA TODAY Sports between workouts at IMG Academy Monday. "What I did on the field is what I did on the field. I don't think what I did with this whole situation, I don't understand how it takes away from what I did on the field."

In January it was revealed in a investigative report by Deadspin that the girlfriend of Te'o, Lennay Kekua, did not exist. The story of Kekua's death and of Te'o's perseverance amidst tragedy was one that helped catapult the Notre Dame linebacker into the spotlight, as the team finished the regular season undefeated and subsequently earned a trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

Te'o accumulated seven interceptions, the most of any linebacker in the FBS, and 113 tackles during the 2012 season before he was invited as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He finished second in the voting behind Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, earning the most-ever votes for a defensive player.

However, the "Catfish" scandal has caused many to question the character of Te'o, as he appeared to be very gullible throughout the situation. In talking to Corbett, though, he brushed off the character concerns, only expressing a few minor regrets:

"No, just be more honest," he said. "I didn't do anything illegal. I didn't break any rules, I didn't hurt anybody. I just wasn't very forthcoming, as forthcoming as I should have been but in that, I didn't do anything wrong."

The 2013 NFL Combine is scheduled to begin on Wednesday and last until Tuesday, where Te'o will certainly be in the spotlight. Where his draft stock will be affected most, though, will likely be behind closed doors where he will almost certainly be grilled by teams about the infamous Kekua scandal during private interviews with teams.

Fans can follow along from the 20th to the 26th on the NFL Network and check in with SBNation for updates throughout.

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