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Manti Te'o: "This is the Perfect Place for Me"
It’s been six weeks since the San Diego Chargers selected Manti Te'o in the second round of the NFL Draft. Over that time, a lot has been thrown at the rookie out of Notre Dame. He’s been studying the playbook extensively, handled a number of highly anticipated press conferences and, most importantly, hit the practice fields at Chargers Park taking reps with the first-team defense.
Through it all, Te’o’s come to learn that there is no place he’d rather be than in San Diego representing the lightning bolt.
“This is the perfect place for me,” he said. “It truly is. It’s because we have an organization here that really, truly believes in people. And (there) are good people. It starts at the top and it’s reciprocated all the way down to the bottom. We have great people on this team that lead this team, and have great players. So for me to be a part of this, I couldn’t be in a more perfect situation and a more perfect place.”
Part of that “perfect situation” is getting to line up next to one of the best up-and-coming young linebackers in the game, Donald Butler. Te’o’s developed great chemistry with Butler, who has helped him immensely in adjusting to life in the NFL.
“Where I’m at right now I couldn’t have been without guys like Butler,” Te’o said. “He just reminds me every down and every play what I’ve got. He just checks to know what I’m doing. I’ll tell him I know and I’ve got it. He’ll just make sure after every play if I have questions he’s always open. Guys like him, I’m really thankful for him, because he didn’t have to. He could have just said ‘Hey man, he’s a rookie.’ But guys like him, Jarret (Johnson), Eric Weddle and Cam (Thomas), they’ve really taken me under their wing and have just pushed me and kept pushing me and have always been there when I needed help.”
Even though he is just a rookie, Te’o is determined to take on a leadership role. Still, his goal first and foremost is to become a fundamentally sound, reliable inside linebacker.
“I see myself evolving into the best player I can be,” he said. “I’m going to be me. I’m going to continue to be me. The first thing I have to do is learn where I have to be on certain plays. I can’t be a leader if I don’t know where I’m going. So first I have to learn where I’ve got to be, and pretty much I’m getting more comfortable with that. And then you’ve got to take it step by step. I’m going to continue to do what I did in college, which is learn what I’ve got to do first, then learn what other guys are doing. Then I can become a leader. But it’s all a process.”
When asked what the biggest adjustment has been thus far, Te’o said the starkest difference isn’t the speed of the game, but rather the techniques each player possesses.
“Everything is about technique,” he explained. “The speed, there are guys that are faster, but for the most part the speed isn’t the biggest difference. It’s how everybody is just technically sound, and for young guys, you’ve just got to learn that you can’t just run off blocks and you can’t just run through a hole. You’ve got to use techniques when you do the simple things. It’s those guys who are great at this game that have mastered those little things.”
Overall, while he’s been hard at work getting ready for his rookie season, the moment he says he’s cherished the most thus far was the chance to get out and meet fans around the entire city yesterday as part of the Chargers’ “Thank You San Diego Day”.
“Yesterday our team had the opportunity to go out in the community,” Te’o said, describing what brought him the biggest smile thus far in his young career. “My group got to go to LEGOLAND. That was my first time to LEGOLAND. I was riding all these rides, and just to see those kids there, for the first time as a rookie I got to see how much this community really loves their team and supports their team. For me to see that was a great thing and a great experience for all of us, but me especially.”
Clearly, Manti Te’o has come away impressed with both the Chargers organization and city of San Diego. Equally important he’s impressed coaches and teammates alike with his attitude, work ethic and skill. Thus, it’s no wonder why Te’o feels he is in the perfect place.