He was passed over in the first round of the National Football League draft, but Hawaii’s own Manti Te’o was taken early in the second round and is officially headed to the pros.
It was a mixed reaction to the news for some people. Many thought Te’o would go in the first round on Thursday, but were disappointed as it ended without a call.
The Laie Native’s triumphant, yet sometimes rocky road to the NFL finally arrived Friday afternoon as the San Diego Charges made Te’o the 38th overall pick in the draft.
Te’o got the call before a handful of family and friends at a private location in Hauula, setting off a celebration that could generate waves at the beach just a few steps away.
Now, San Diego gets college football’s single-season, most-decorated player, having claimed eight national awards and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy race.
An admitted poor showing at the national title game, paired with a slow 40 yard dash time and being victimized in a highly publicized online hoax, may have led to his slipping into the second round.
However, according to Te’o, it’s just fuel to the fire.
He’s San Diego-bound and super charged about it.
“It was kind of weird because I think Cincinnati was up next and when my phone rang, it was a California number. I looked at the list and I didn’t see any California teams up next, at least soon,” Te’o said. “It was not somebody trying to play a prank on me. I answered the phone and it was the Chargers and I was just so excited and everybody just went quiet.”
“It’s just an unbelievable experience. When you grow up playing football and the way you wanna go is the NFL. And today that dream happened and my dream came true. It’s a new era now. It’s a new chapter in my life and it’s a chapter I’m looking forward to,” Te’o said. “I don’t know if these guys know what they just did. They just created a fire in me that I haven’t felt before and I think it’s a blessing in disguise for me. I’m excited to get this thing started.”
Te’o is scheduled to catch the red-eye flight to southern California Friday night, meeting with the Chargers and media on Saturday.
Click HERE to see photos from the 2013 NFL draft.