With the San Diego Chargers beginning organized team activities, Manti Te'o is getting the second chance he's been wanting. Te'o hopes his hard work on and off the practice field will impress his teammates and erase any doubts about the rookie linebacker, writes Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"I'm always in the weight room," Te'o said. "I'm trying to get stronger any way I can. But one of my strengths, I think, is in the film room. I'm preparing myself mentally for the game. A lot of this game is played mentally. Little of it is played physically. Your mind makes your body move. I try to get my preparation that way."
If any of Te'o's Chargers teammates have reservations about playing with the Notre Dame product, it's understandable. He was embroiled in controversy following last college football season when news broke that he lied about a deceased girlfriend who never existed. He didn't appear to act maliciously or know -- at least initially -- that the woman was fake, but falling for such a hoax was troubling in its own right.
At the NFL Combine in February, the 22-year-old's draft stock took another hit. Te'o measured out smaller than the ideal size for a linebacker (6'1, 241 pounds), and he showed just average speed, running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash. As a result of his off-field issues and lackluster showing at the combine, he dropped from a possible first-round selection to the sixth selection of the second round, No. 38 overall.
Now that a disappointing few months are behind him, Te'o wants to prove his doubters wrong, and he wants to start with his new teammates.
"You've just got to keep your head down," Te'o said. "Know you're a rookie. Keep your head down; keep your head in the playbook. Work hard. Show that you really care about what you're doing, about your job. Obviously, you've got to earn the respect of the veterans. That will come in time, I'm sure. But with what I'm going to do and with my work ethic, that will come soon."
Te'o didn't have the best combine, but his play at Notre Dame proved that he has talent. He finished 2012 with 113 tackles, seven interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Those numbers helped him win the Maxwell, Butkus and Lombardi Awards, cementing him as one of the best players in college football.
If Te'o does whatever he did to become one of the top college players in the country, he should have a chance to win over the Chargers locker room.