ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. » Manti Te’o is focused on getting faster.
The Notre Dame star and Heisman Trophy runner-up, who was clocked at 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine last week, expects to improve his time and is looking forward to his Pro Day on March 26.
"I’m glad I have another opportunity to run it," he said Friday. "I’m training hard and looking forward to it."
The linebacker was in the Garden State to accept the Maxwell Football Club’s Maxwell Award for collegiate player of the year and Chuck Bednarik Award for collegiate defensive player of the year. Te’o spoke to reporters for nearly six minutes, but wouldn’t address his highly publicized online romance with a girlfriend that was exposed as a hoax.
He stopped short of calling the embarrassment a "distraction," but admitted it weighed heavily on his mind.
"It’s difficult to balance things and to stay focused on what you have to do but for me, I’m glad that the combine is done," Te’o said. "I’m finished that and now I’m focused on specific things like my 40 and I don’t have to worry so much about other things and definitely it’s difficult.
"I’m not going to say it’s easy but it’s something you can work through."
Asked what he expects to run in the 40, Te’o said: "Obviously faster than a 4.8. We’ll see what happens."
Te’o said he was timed in the 4.6s before the combine.
After the news conference at Harrah’s, Te’o walked through the casino with the hood on his sweat shirt pulled up. He was flanked by security guards, which seemed to bring him more attention than if he was alone.
Te’o said he tries to "avoid a lot of the (extracurricular) stuff" now.
"Knowing what you can control and what you can’t control," he said. "What I can control is making myself the best player I can be and the best person. I tend to focus on that."
Te’o was disappointed in more just his 40 at the combine. He participated in five of the seven drills, opting out of the bench press and 60-yard shuttle, and did not finish ranked among the top five at his position in any of them.
"As a football player, that’s one of the big stepping stones growing up," he said. "You see people going to the combine and when you finally get there, it’s like ‘Oh my gosh. I’m at the combine.’ It’s a lot of pressure and a lot anxiety and excitement and definitely a great opportunity for me to be there, but I’m glad I finished that and now I have the pro day."
As for the 40 hurting his draft position, Te’o isn’t sure.
"The 40 time measures what the 40 time is supposed to measure," he said. "That’s something I’m going to get better at it. The only way from here is up and I’m going to definitely get better. As far as my play, flip on the film."
Te’o better hope teams don’t judge him based on his last performance. He played poorly in Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Alabama in the national championship game.
"You prepare, you work hard, you hope for the best," he said. "I don’t where specifically I’m going to go. I just hope that one of those 32 places become my home."
While Te’o attracted perhaps more attention than any player in combine history, he insisted teams didn’t ask him inappropriate questions.
"Everything they asked me, I answered honestly and I didn’t feel uncomfortable," Te’o said. "It was a good experience, more positive happened than negative."
Other award winners were: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who received the Bert Bell Award for professional player of the year; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who won the Greasy Neale Award for professional coach of the year; Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who is the college football coach of the year; and Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, who is the tri-state player of the year
"It’s all because of my team," Te’o said of winning two awards. "If our team didn’t have the season that we did, I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here. Football is the best team sport. Everybody has to do their job. For me to be here, it’s because of the other 10 guys on the defense and the 11 guys on offense and sidelines."