Perhaps The Heisman Trust dodged a bullet when Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel won their coveted trophy over sentimental favorite Manti Te'o of the University of Notre Dame (UND). It was the first time in the storied trophy's history that a freshman had won the coveted award, and the vote became a bit controversial because a veteran college player with a compelling personal tragedy was seemingly overlooked.
Earlier in the season, a couple of days before the Fighting Irish's game against Michigan State on September 15, 2012, it was reported that Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend had passed away on the same day. But that story was turned upside down yesterday as UND athletic director Jack Swarbick held a news conference yesterday to essentially confirm a story broken by the media outlet Dead Spin that the death of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's alleged girlfriend, was an elaborate hoax.
According to the transcript of Swarbick's press conference, posted on the official website of Notre Dame athletics, UND.com, the athletic director defended his school's star player.
Swarbick said, "Manti was the victim of that hoax. Manti is the victim of that hoax, and he will carry that with him for a while."
"I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota. The same great young man, great student, and great athlete that we have been so proud to have be a member of our family is the same guy tonight, unchanged in any way, except for, as he indicated in a statement in his release, the embarrassment associated with having been a victim in this case," Swarbick continued.
While generally acknowledged as a high first-round pick, Te'o had seen his draft stock drop somewhat after a poor showing against the University of Alabama in the BCS National Championship game. Just this week, Gil Brandt of NFL.com unveiled his 2013 NFL mock draft board, and the former Cowboys' general manager had Te'o fall to the New York Giants, who, barring a trade, are selecting in the 19th position.
But Brandt was not alone in his caution about Te'o, in fact, two other NFL.com analysts, Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah, actually had the Big Blue passing on Te'o, and then having him selected by the Chicago Bears in the 20th position.
Generally acknowledged to be a conservative organization, the Giants generally prefer to keep a low profile, and the organization expects its players to do the same. Because of the nature of this story, questions will continue to exist well into Te'o's rookie season in the league, and teams may deem that the risk of drafting the Notre Dame linebacker is not worth any potential reward, at least initially.
Hopefully, Marc Ross, the G-men's director of college scouting, has compiled his list of potential draft picks in pencil.