Run, Manti, Run! Slow Time Reveals More than Speed (or Lack Thereof)
Playing football in the NFL is a stressful job, to say the least. NFL coaches are looking for athletes who can perform at their best when the heat is on, there are three seconds on the clock, and it’s do or die.
There were three seconds on Manti Te’o’s clock going into this year's scouting combine, and he let the time run out.
Although most people said the incident that took place off of the field -- concerning a girl who never existed -- didn’t diminish Manti’s draft stock, his uninspired performance in the National Championship game did put a magnifier on him in this year’s draft. Most teams are still interested in Manti because of his performance on the field, but his 40-yard dash time, which was a lackluster 4.82, may have finally been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Another slip in a growing list that could cost Manti his first round status in the upcoming draft.
Now, it may seem like I’m judging Manti Te’o too harshly. After all, the stats don’t make the player, and sure, he had plenty of great plays for Notre Dame. But if I was an NFL coach, there are only two factors I'd consider at this point:
- Manti was handled with good coaching and great execution in the championship; if Nick Saban and his staff figured out how to do it in college, you can bet your life that they will figure out how to do it better in the pros.
- After posting his slow 40 time, Manti told reporters he didn’t do as well as he should have done, due to the stressful situation he was under.
The second point presents a red flag if I'm looking for a solid linebacker. Every player went through the same tests and the same stress as Manti Te’o. Performing under pressure is what you have to do to succeed and thrive in the NFL. If you can’t run a 40 under pressure, how will you ever make a game-winning stop if you let it affect your physical ability?
I’m not inferring that Manti will never live up to his expectations or that he won’t show up on pro day in South Bend and run 4.5 so everyone will forget about his performance at the combine. I do believe, though, that there may be more problems in drafting Te’o that can be predicted by physical tests.
Manti Te'o has still got a lot to prove, and very few places in which to do it before draft day.