Is Manti Te'o the next Ray Lewis?

Updated: April 15, 2009, 12:22 PM ET
ESPN RISE Magazine

No player during the past decade has struck fear into the hearts of opponents quite like Ray Lewis. One of the best middle linebackers in NFL history, No. 52 is a nightmare because he's always around the ball and brings a devastating blend of passion, power and smarts.

Even in 2008, when he was supposed to be on the downside of his career, Lewis was an All-Pro first team selection for the sixth time while spearheading the Baltimore Ravens' run to the AFC Championship game. A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis delivered his bone-crunching hits in high school at Kathleen (Lakeland, Fla.), where he accumulated 207 tackles and 10 sacks. He then played three years at Miami and was Baltimore's first-round pick in 1996.

Te'O vs. Lewis
Manti Te'o Ray Lewis
High School PUNAHOU (HAWAII) KATHLEEN (FLA.)
POSITION LINEBACKER LINEBACKER
CLASS 2009 1993
HT/WT 6-2/230 6-1/250
TACKLES* 129 207
SACKS* 11 10
COLLEGE NOTRE DAME MIAMI
* TEO'S SENIOR SEASON; LEWIS' HIGH SCHOOL CAREER STATS

If you're looking for someone who can eventually take the mantle from Lewis, Punahou (Honolulu) senior linebacker Manti Te'o possesses the same type of intangibles. Arguably the greatest football player to ever come out of Hawaii, Te'o brings a heavy dose of speed and athleticism, but the Notre Dame recruit's greatest quality might be his football IQ. Rated the nation's No. 1 defensive player and No. 2 overall recruit in the ESPNU 150, the Under Armour All- American garnered Gatorade State Player of the Year honors for the second straight year this past fall after leading Punahou to its first state title in its 118- year history.

Te'o finished with 129 tackles, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. And he's only getting better. Now that's a scary thought.

[+] EnlargeManti Teo
Chris Livingston/Icon SmiManti Te'o impressed at the Under Armour All-America game in January.

Rewind

Hits and misses from our past next picks

HIT:
Noel Devine to Reggie Bush
Using his Reggie Bush-like wheels, Devine was an offensive force during his sophomore season at West Virginia, rushing for 1,289 yards. Those numbers should improve next year with dual-threat QB Pat White graduating.

MISS:
Lorenzo Booker to Marshall Faulk
When Booker graduated high school in 2002, he appeared to have the same all-around skills as Faulk. But Booker never ran for more than 1,000 yards at Florida State and has played for two teams in two pro seasons.

Next In Line

More high school football comparisons

The Next Ed Reed:Craig Loston
Reed is the top safety in the NFL due to his coverage skills and nose for the ball. The LSU-bound Loston has the same playmaking potential from the position.

The Next Michael Turner: Trent Richardson
Richardson is a workhorse RB in the mold of Turner who can pound it between the tackles. Like Turner, the Alabama-bound Richardson also has exceptional speed.

The Next James Harrison: Jelani Jenkins
The NFL Defensive Player of the Year proved what a disruptive force he is during the Super Bowl. Jenkins, a Florida-bound linebacker, causes similar problems for offenses.