INDIANAPOLIS – Notre Dame center Braxston Cave faced the first Manti Te'o questions of the NFL Combine, and he responded with teammate empathy.
Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker who gained national attention when his “girlfriend” was exposed as an online hoax, will face a prying NFL all weekend.
Cave believes he's up for the challenge.
“It's unfortunate the way this has turned him from being one of the greatest college football players this year into this whole different image that's been set for him,” Cave said. “I'll be happy once his name is called in the draft and we can all put this behind us.”
Cave called Te'o a “great leader” who also stepped up whenever Notre Dame needed a rallying point in their undefeated regular season. He also dismissed those who put some of the blame on the national championship loss to Alabama on Te'o being distracted by the brewing scandal.
“I would never use something like that as an excuse,” Cave said. “We didn't play well as a team. Alabama came out and they were the better team. Whether there were other things on his mind or not, it didn't really matter that day.”
Cave was among several players who met with the media during the first formal day of the NFL Combine on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Notre Dame tight end and Fort Wayne native Tyler Eifert was also at the stadium, but did not come to the media room for interviews.
Cave said he believes Te'o is strong enough to weather the incident and that he'll be able to demonstrate his true character as he meets with NFL team representatives.
"It'll be nice to have every team sit down and talk with him and hear his story and let him get it all out," Cave said. "Everybody has their own story for it right now."
Prospective draft picks are meeting with teams and going through health tests, with drills and other physical tests coming this weekend. Te'o is expected to talk to the NFL media on Saturday. Around 800 media credentials were issued for the combine.
“You saw every Saturday what kind of player (Te'o) is,” Cave said. “What he does here, I don't know how big of an impact that will have, but when he puts a helmet on his head, he plays football.”
Cave said he was surprised by the incident involving the online deception, just like everyone else.
“It's not something you see every day,” Cave said. “Like I said, I feel sorry for him. But I know he'll get through it.”