SAN DIEGO - Manti Te'o spent Thursday with his family on Oahu, watching the first round of the NFL draft and expecting a telephone call that never arrived.
It finally came Friday.
San Diego Chargers rookie general manager Tom Telesco moved up seven spots in the second round to pick the linebacker out of Notre Dame, apparently not worried about a hoax involving a fake girlfriend and a poor performance in the national championship game that have dogged Te'o for four months.
‘That’s the best thing that ever could happen to me. … All yesterday did was just give me more
motivation and more fire to just go out there and play football and do well at it.’
– Manti Te‘o, on not being selected in the first round of the NFL draft
"I did expect to go in the first round. But things happened and all it did was give me more motivation to get better," Te'o, a Punahou School graduate, said in a conference call with reporters.
"I don't know if I have something to prove but it definitely puts a huge fire under my butt to just be better," Te'o said. "Again, that's the best thing that ever could happen to me. I'm already naturally a motivated person who just wants to be the best. All yesterday did was just give me more motivation and more fire to just go out there and play football and do well at it."
Two officials, each with different teams, said their clubs passed on Te'o in the first round partly due to his off-field issues. The men spoke on condition of anonymity because team draft strategy is confidential.
The Chargers traded with the Arizona Cardinals to move up and take last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up with the 38th overall pick.
"He's a great kid," Telesco said. "We did a lot of work on Te'o and I've seen him for a number of years. He loves football. He's passionate about it. He loves to practice. He loves to play."
One pick later, the New York Jets selected Geno Smith - the quarterback out of West Virginia sat backstage at Radio City Music Hall in the first round, and planned to head home Friday, but opted to stay.
"Right now, none of that matters," Smith said in a conference call.
With the second round's 26th pick, 58th overall, the Denver Broncos took Montee Ball, who at Wisconsin set NCAA career records for total touchdowns (83) and rushing scores (77), and tied the single-season touchdown mark (39 in 2011).
In the third round, the Cardinals took former Louisiana State cornerback and kick returner Tyrann Mathieu - the "Honey Badger" was a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist who was dismissed from the team at LSU last August for failing a drug test. He was arrested in late October after police said they found marijuana at Mathieu's apartment.