It didn't take long for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o to go from living legend to laughing stock. After Deadspin.com broke the story Jan. 16 that Te'o's presumed deceased girlfriend (who reportedly passed away in September from cancer) isn't in fact dead and was never was in fact anything but a well developed, strangely crafted concoction of a fiction that never existed from the time she was introduced to the world by Te'o. It's been a stressful week for the once assured first round pick Te'o. A 6-foot-2, 255-pound middle linebacker, Te'o was already a high school star before he hit the Irish campus but he became a Heisman finalist this season after numerous big stops and timely big plays. But his mystical girlfriend has fans and critics looking at him like he's nuts. Will Te'o's girlfriend hoax affect his draft stock? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Of course it will. Whether he was a victim of an elaborate prank or the puppeteer pulling the media's strings, the whole ordeal solely falls back on the judgment skills of Te'o. Either he was too gullible to get sucked in to an online prank or he's in serious need of attention if he played a role in all of this. Middle linebackers are supposed to be the brains of the defense. I wouldn't feel comfortable letting Te'o go to the vending machine by himself at this point if I was an NFL general manager. You can't trust him.
Green: If a guy can play then he can play. Who cares if he made up a girlfriend? Why would a franchise go crazy over not being able to trust him? Trust him to do what? Tell the media the truth about his love life? That shouldn't matter to NFL GM's. I know one thing you can trust him to do: run down running backs and make big plays. That's the only trust that needs to be there.
Riley: A highly skilled linebacker, we all know that. But if the kid is a bat case then why even deal with it? This past NFL season we saw several cases of why poor judgment can not only distract a football team but be deadly. Look at the cases surrounding Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher or Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent. Both men had some serious lapses in judgment that not only resulted in death in both cases but rearranged the focus of the locker room heading into the season's crucial months. In past years, a made-up girlfriend would've been enough to have a few teams cross a player off their draft board. Considering what just happened this past season I expect teams to give this fake girlfriend story the full microscope before deciding to draft Te'o.
Green: My point is nothing that Te'o did or didn't do was illegal. He wasn't driving drunk or toting guns around. We're relying on a story of a guy involved with a fake girlfriend? I mean how ridiculous does all of this sound? And you want to tell me to forget how this guy helped an unranked school in the beginning of the year, move up to tops in the country and led them to a BCS Championship game just because he's involved in a story featuring a woman who never existed? That's just reaching Riley. Tell me he's too slow or not big enough. Tell me he can't tackle. Tell me something else why a team shouldn't draft him instead of telling me a fake girlfriend is going to hurt his draft stock.
Riley: What I will tell you is that if I'm the CEO of a company and I need somebody to lead my company I'm not going for the guy with the amazing resume but the made-up fictional girlfriend that he never met in his life but he's madly in love with. I want decision makers who can make the right choices for themselves not only in battle but off the field as well. Football players only spend a few hours each Sunday playing football but the rest of that time they're on their own making their own decisions. If a team decides to not pull the trigger on a guy who's the center of a hoax then I can understand that. And if the story turns out that Te'o knew about this all along then you can definitely expect a drop come draft day.
Green: Sports writers made this into a national story. It really shouldn't have been a big story in the first place. Somewhere along the line the writers that reported this stuff should be held accountable. Instead of being so quick to write a sensational story, they should have done some fact checking. If Te'o lied then he has serious issues. But even those issues won't affect how he plays on the field. Unlike someone who cheats with steroids or gets in trouble with the law, his lie won't get him suspended and away from the field. This is still the best linebacker in the draft and he should be selected as such.