Although Manti Te'o and his Fighting Irish brethren were blown out by Alabama in the BCS National Championship, the loss will not affect the star linebacker's draft stock.
With Eddie Lacy and T.J Yeldon running the ball behind the Crimson Tide's exceptional offensive line, Te'o and the rest of the Irish defense were outmatched from the first snap.
Te'o's lack of top-end speed was evident at times against Alabama, as he failed to close on Lacy and Yeldon on a few occasions. Also, Te'o struggled to get off the blocks of Alabama's guards, which contributed to the 265 yards the Tide compiled on the ground.
Despite his struggles in the National Title Game, Te'o has the physical tools to be successful at the next level.
At 6'2" and 255 pounds, he has the size to slow down interior runs but is also quick enough to cover tight ends.
Te'o's pristine character, team-first attitude and proficiency at middle linebacker will see him drafted in the first round during April's NFL draft.
Once the scouting process for the 2013 NFL draft really starts, executives across the league are going to be enamored by Te'o's leadership ability.
According to Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said the following about Te'o's leadership:
What he's done for us off the field is probably as important as what he's done on the field. He's gotten incredible accolades and awards, but his leadership in a large degree is why we're here.
While leadership cannot be quantified, Te'o has proven himself to be a leader of men, a skill that will easily transfer to the next level.
A perfect example of his leadership can be found against the Oklahoma Sooners when Notre Dame's offense was struggling. In what was a season defining game, Te'o bolstered the confidence of starting quarterback Everett Golson by saying the following (h/t NOLA.com):
I remember Te'o coming up to me and he was like 'We got you. We're going to take care of our part, we got you. Whatever you do, we got you.' Having a defensive player encouraging me like that helped me out a lot and made me more comfortable.
The Irish went on to beat the Sooners in Norman, with Golson scoring a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which gave Notre Dame a lead it would not relinquish.
It's safe to say that without Te'o, the Fighting Irish would not have gone undefeated and would have missed out on playing in the BCS National Championship Game. Te'o was Notre Dame's heart and soul all season and will bring the same passion to the NFL.
Te'o is the type of player NFL franchises want to promote, as he has a terrific backstory, works hard and is humble, all of which strike chords with fans.
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