NOTRE DAME, Ind. - "Find ball, hit ball and make plays" - those are the three things Manti Te'o says are ultimately what his world as a middle linebacker comes down to. Those three things do not necessarily jive with how NFL executives measure the worth of a football player.
The poking, prodding and measuring and putting players under a microscope happen from January and up through late April when players' names are finally called on draft day. Te'o and a handful of his former Notre Dame teammates were on display for NFL execs as well as the media during Notre Dame's NFL Pro Day.
"I'm at home now," Te'o said after being put through in paces in the friendly confines of Notre Dame's Loftus Center. "I'm in a place where I'm comfortable (and) surrounded by people I know. I thought I did pretty good. I was pleased with the way I performed."
"I felt good," he continued. "It was kind of like just a grand finale kind of thing with everybody there. I had guys around me that I spent the last four years with that I was comfortable with. It was more comfortable being out here and performing here at Notre Dame, so I was very pleased with what happened."
Te'o was everybody's All-American just four months ago when he won virtually every award a linebacker can win for his play during the 2012 season. He had an unprecedented runner-up Heisman Trophy finish for a defensive player while leading his team to a 12-0 regular season and Notre Dame's first ever berth in the BCS Championship Game.
Two things happened in the meantime that knocked him off his path to being a top-10 pick in next month's draft. Both were as public as public could be. The first was the sensationalistic and seemingly unbelievable saga of the girlfriend who never was. The second was his 4.82 40-yard dash time a month ago at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Te'o did his best to put the girlfriend drama behind him during the combine when he had his individual meetings with at least 20 NFL teams. He was asked about it over and over.
"Everybody wants to know," Te'o responded. "Some guys just wanted a brief minute (about) what happened. Some guys went into a little bit more depth. But overall it was a great opportunity - great experience. It went better than I expected."
It did not take long for Te'o to put his poor 40 time behind him either. The 40 was the first event at Notre Dame's Pro Day. ESPN reported that he ran a 4.72 and 4.75 in his two dashes across the Loftus turf. He said afterward that he was told at least one stop watch had him at 4.69 (official times will be released by Notre Dame later today).
"I just expected me to run fast," Te'o said when asked if his times met his personal expectations. "(I expected to) run faster than I ran at the combine and that's exactly what I did."
Te'o also ran various agility drills. There were typical cone drills for times and he also did several backpedaling drills to see how fluid he was opening his hips and breaking both back and forward on balls in the air and on tacklers. When it is all said and done though, they are drills that are done in shorts in a controlled environment. Te'o says there are other measures of a football player that are much more important.
"It's what you do on tape," Te'o said. "We play football with a helmet on (and) with shoulder pads. Obviously all these tests are something you want to do well at."
Some might think of his audition in shorts as a job interview, but that is not how Te'o looked at it.
"I didn't think of it that way," Te'o said. "When you start thinking of it like that it adds pressure that you don't need at this time, so I just thought of it as an opportunity for me to go out there and show what I've got and show what I can do and that's exactly what I did."
The 2013 NFL Draft is now a month away. It begins on April 25 and ends two days later. With any luck, Te'o will hear his name called on day one as was being projected just a couple months ago. He will not go to New York for the draft though. Instead, he will stay at "home" in South Bend with the friends he thinks of as family.
Te'o still has a few meetings with a handful of NFL teams, but for the most part he has now done all he can do in advance of the draft. Tuesday's Pro Day and all the weight that was put on it is a thing of the past.
"If you ask anybody who has gone through this process this is possibly the best day ever," Te'o said of his final public audition. "It's a big, big burden off your shoulders. It feels like it's your birthday. I'm very glad that it's over."
Find ball, hit ball and make plays.