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Te'o thinks he's 'pretty prepared' for NFL

By Bernie Wilson

AP Sports Writer

LAST UPDATED: 01:25 a.m. HST, Apr 28, 2013

SAN DIEGO >>After dealing with the commotion over his fake online girlfriend and his flop in the national championship game, Manti Te'o believes he's ready for the NFL.

That includes being mentally tough enough for the verbal abuse he'll surely hear in places like Philadelphia, where the San Diego Chargers play their first road game next season, and Oakland's infamous "Black Hole."

"After the couple months I've been through, I think I'm pretty prepared," Te'o said today in his introductory news conference. "As far as going into another stadium, you can't worry about that stuff. You're with your family, you're with your brothers out there. That's all that matters. That's all you can really pay attention to. Yeah, it's a football game, and you play with the guys that you've prepared with, and you focus on what's important, and that's making sure that when the Chargers walk off, we're victorious."

The Chargers' rookie brain trust, general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy, said they weren't bothered by the scrutiny Te'o has been under the last four months. The Chargers traded up in the second round to pick the star Notre Dame linebacker.

Te'o visited with Telesco and McCoy in San Diego before the draft and gave his version of what happened with the girlfriend hoax and his poor play in Notre Dame's blowout loss to Alabama in the national championship game.

"I just concentrate on me being me," said Te'o, who seemed relaxed in facing the media. "What I learned from that is you can control certain things and you can't control other things. So, learn to control the things you can and leave the things you can't control up to those people. I was just happy to get out there and share my side of the story, to just tell them that hey, what happened was what happened and what I'm here to do is play football. Hopefully guys saw that."

Te'o said Friday that he had expected to go in the first round on Thursday night. He was with his family in Hawaii when the first round came and went without him being drafted. The Chargers took him with the 38th pick overall after trading spots in the second round with Arizona and giving the Cardinals their fourth-round pick.

Te'o said he's been welcomed by his new teammates, with quarterback Philip Rivers being the first to text him with congratulations. He's even getting on well with Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker, the Chargers' first-round pick.

Te'o became the butt of national jokes after it was revealed he was duped into an Internet romance with a girlfriend he never met.

The too-good-to-be-true story began with Te'o's incredible performances after learning his grandmother and what he believed was his girlfriend had died within hours of one another in September. Te'o said it inspired him to play his best football all season, and it was so compelling that it helped turn Te'o into a Heisman Trophy contender as he was leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and into the national title game.

On Dec. 26, Te'o notified Notre Dame officials that he had received a call from his supposedly dead girlfriend's phone three weeks earlier.

The school investigated and — after Deadspin.com broke the story of the fake girlfriend — athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced at a news conference that Te'o had been duped. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, later said he created the online persona of Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te'o said he fell in love with despite never meeting her in person.

Te'o struggled in Notre Dame's loss to in the national championship game to Alabama and its offense full of future NFL draft picks.

One of those players, Fluker, was drafted by the Chargers with the 11th overall pick Thursday night. Fluker posed for a group photo with Te'o and California wide receiver Keenan Allen, the Chargers' third-round pick. Fluker then stood to the side as Allen and then Te'o answered questions.

"He's one of the funniest dudes in the world," Te'o said of Fluker. "Having D.J. on our team and the energy he brings to the game, if you watch him on the field he's one of the meanest dudes but off the field he's one of the coolest guys to get to know. Now we're here and Keenan's here. We all knew each other before we came here. We're very lucky to be here."

Te'o said he's dealt with the circus the last few months by "just finding time for myself. I found time for myself with my family. I found a lot of peace and a lot of joy just hanging out with my friends, hanging out with my family. Me going back to Hawaii was the best thing that happened to me, just to be around my family."

What should people know about him?

"I'm just a regular 22-year-old kid," Te'o said. "I just love to hang out with friends, love to play football. Just normal. Just like everybody else."

Te'o said his biggest influences were the late Junior Seau, who starred with San Diego for 13 seasons, and Ray Lewis, who retired after leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl win against San Francisco.

"It starts off with Junior," Te'o said. "Me being a Polynesian-Samoan kid, you look up to Junior. He's a Samoan man who was a trailblazer for kids like me. Everybody knows what Ray Lewis does, not only as a player but what he does as a teammate, rallying his guys, being that leader. When he says something, people listen. I've always watched that, the enthusiasm, energy and tenacity."

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localguy wrote:
Manti would do well to start giving back by supporting the Junior Seau foundation. After Junior's death, the foundation needs support to continue its mission of giving back to those in need. Manti could be just the person to start the tradition again. Best of luck with the Chargers Manti, you will do well.
on April 27,2013 | 02:13PM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
I bet Romaiah Tuiasosopo is happy. Doesn't he live in Oceanside, a few miles north of San Diego? No need for just an online relationship .with Manti now.
on April 27,2013 | 02:20PM
kahuku01 wrote:
There's always a few that like to spit out thrash. A wise man with class would refrain from bringing up trash talk and would keep it simple and wish him the best of luck.
on April 27,2013 | 05:53PM
homeskillet wrote:
kekoabradshaw was probably dumped by R Tuiasosopo so he is just a bitter little fella !
on April 28,2013 | 08:34AM
ponowai wrote:
The only thing that matters is how well Manti plays. Only the lame little people will focus on little negatives.
on April 27,2013 | 02:46PM
cojef wrote:
All he gotta do is keep his focus, an he will be okay. In fact real good.
on April 27,2013 | 04:25PM
tsushimama wrote:
Who among us hasn't been fooled one time or another! Manti was just a young man under an immense spotlight when it all happened to him and handled it much the same as anyone his age would - imperfectly! Yes, he had a less than stellar performance against Alabama; he also had terrific performances the whole year and for his whole career both collegiate and high school. Good for him, put the draft behind and move on to become a great professional hopefully. He and his family should be proud, he carries himself well and has learned alot.
on April 27,2013 | 05:32PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Punahou colors
on April 27,2013 | 06:00PM
koa26 wrote:
Good luck, Manti! I cheered for you at Notre Dame and will continue to root for you as a San Diego Charger!
on April 27,2013 | 06:04PM
W15 wrote:
Is Manti still not giving interviews to the Star-Advertiser?
on April 27,2013 | 07:34PM
dlum003 wrote:
He's a good kid for the most part, but his Father needs to stay the heck out of it and let his son take the spotlight. The Chargers will probably use a defensive scheme that lets him shoot open gaps, as he has a tendency to take poor angles and get swallowed up by big blockers. Good luck anyway young man. Just tell your Dad to stay away from the cameras, and let you be your own man .
on April 28,2013 | 07:12AM
alohachef wrote:
In Tsai's blog, someone commented if the city used taxpayer's money for the Manti Te'o parade held in La'ie yesterday. From what I understand the parade was put together by the people of the community especially Jr. Ah You. Someone told me that the city just got aboard around last week Wednesday, when they made their announcement. Seems like the city and Caldwell was looking for publicity. La'ie was going to honor Te'o, Toma, and Schewnke with or without the city's endorsement. Just saying.
on April 28,2013 | 11:01AM
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