Manti Te’o has been one of the most discussed, analyzed and scrutinized NFL prospects in recent memory.
The story about his fake girlfriend became national news and made Te’o the subject of criticism and the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows. It has also led to questions about his character and leadership on the football field.
Ravens General Manger Ozzie Newsome was asked during Tuesday’s pre-draft press conference about how he viewed the former Notre Dame linebacker’s “issues.”
“We had that question in our first meeting, and what is the issue?” Newsome responded.
“Is that beating women? Is that using drugs? Is it DUI? How do you clarify that? I couldn’t.”
The endorsement for Te’o didn’t stop with Newsome.
A reporter followed with a question for Head Coach John Harbaugh about whether he could trust Te’o as a leader of a football team, which is often required of a middle linebacker.
“Absolutely we do,” Harbaugh said. “We’re comfortable with him. We had a great interview.”
Te’o, who finished second in Heisman Trophy voting, has been linked to the Ravens in a number of mock drafts. After a stellar four-year career at Notre Dame where he racked up 113 tackles and seven interceptions last season, Te’o is regarded as one of the top inside linebackers in the draft.
His stock appears to have risen in recent weeks, and most draftniks have him off the board before the Ravens draft at pick No. 32.
“You look at his body of work, what he has accomplished, who he is as a person, where he comes from,” Harbaugh said. “We feel good about Manti.”