- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said Saturday that the controversy surrounding Manti Te’o and the Internet girlfriend hoax won’t prevent the Giants from considering drafting the Notre Dame linebacker, should they feel he fits what they need.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin and many others in the NFL may not know all the intricacies of “catfishing,” but the Giants, like everybody else, will try to get to the bottom of the Te'o scandal.
“Our younger people, our younger scouts can explain it better than I can,” Reese said, when asked about “catfishing” and whether the 66-year-old Coughlin understands it fully. “We’ll bring [Te’o] in, and we’ll let him explain that situation for us. But again, I think there’s people with a lot more issues than this issue.”
Te’o is the center of attention at the NFL scouting combine because of the controversy surrounding his imaginary girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. He drew a mob of reporters and cameras at his news conference Saturday -– perhaps the most highly anticipated media availability ever at the combine.
Kekua was supposed to be Te’o’s late girlfriend who died of leukemia during the college football season. Instead, Kekua was part of an Internet hoax commonly known as “catfishing” that had Te’o entangled in an online romance with an imaginary girlfriend who never existed.
The term “catfishing” comes from the 2010 film “Catfish,” which is about a man’s online relationship with a young woman who was made up. MTV developed a television show called “Catfish” with the same premise, centered on deceptive virtual relationships.
Te’o spent nearly 15 minutes Saturday answering just about every question that came his way about the scandal that has made him a household name. He was humble, handled himself professionally and didn’t try to avoid answering even the toughest questions.
He was asked about such topics as his poor performance in the national championship game against Alabama, the Kekua scandal and whether he is currently dating “anyone in real life.” He politely responded to that question by saying not right now.
The controversy makes Te’o a lot more complicated than your average draft prospect.
“We’re more interested in what kind of football player he is than anything else,” said Reese, who owns the 19th pick in the first round. “These things, I think they get blown out of proportion a little bit. But we’ll investigate it, and we’ll see how it goes.”
The highest draft pick Reese has used on a linebacker during his tenure as GM is a second-rounder on Clint Sintim in 2009. The Giants have not drafted a linebacker in the first round since taking Carl Banks in 1984.
The Giants will lean on what their scouts have seen on the field and learned about Te’o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, who is considered one of the top three linebackers in the draft. The team will also look into social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter when it comes to all of its potential draftees.
“We look at that stuff,” Reese said. “But again, I think you can have too much information. You talk yourself out of good players because of what somebody said on Twitter and what somebody said on Facebook."
When the Giants sit down with prospects at the combine, coaches and team brass interview the player. The position coach will often ask most of the questions, and then the Giants will go through their process of determining what round somebody like Te'o should be taken in.
“We put it all in the hopper,” Reese said. “And we come out with, 'This is what this guy is. This is where we think he should be on our board. Will we take him if he’s at a certain position for us?' Just like everybody else. His situation is no different than it is for anybody else.”
Suffice it to say, the Giants’ interview with Te’o will probably be unlike any interview they’ve ever conducted with a prospect.
“I’ve answered everything I could,” Te’o said Saturday. “I’d really like to talk about football.”
2hBy Dan Graziano