When the San Diego Chargers drafted the late Junior Seau in the first round in 1990, his professionalism and skills throughout his career on and off the field made him one the most iconic sports figures in the city of San Diego. Did the Bolts find a similar linebacker twenty-three years later?
The Chargers jump in the 2013 draft to snatch Manti Te’o has already drawn some comparisons to the late Hall of Fame linebacker because of his intelligence and playmaking ability as a Heisman candidate at Notre Dame. However, there are those critics and fans that deem this judgment premature because of Te’o size, quickness, and adjustments playing the Chargers 3-4 defense. In front of Te’o significant test lie ahead in making the adjustments to a pass friendly league that utilizes the tight end and running backs as much as the wide receivers.
Last month, the Chargers held spring training camp with both veterans and rookies. During drills, Te’o participated alongside starter Donald Butler as “mike” linebacker and the regular middle linebacker with the rookies in the 11 on 11 drills. This was certainly a step in the right direction for Te’o to be a three down linebacker that both Head Coach Mike McCoy and Defensive Coordinator John Pagano expect from him. The team was impressed with his commitment and passion. Despite some rookie mistakes, Te’o was able to showcase his alertness to the ball by batting down several passes and picking up different receiver routes.
Te’o does bring to the Chargers outside distractions, but he is winning over his teammates by handling it as a professional. He will definitely have to prove himself on the football field each Sunday, but he does bring the same passion, determination, and intensity that made Seau one of the best linebackers to play game of football. Will Te’o be the next iconic sports athlete in San Diego? Only time will tell, but if he inspires the defense like Seau and becomes a playmaker on the defensive side of the football, he has a great chance to live up to these high expectations already placed on him by many fans.