Notre Dame Star, One-Time Tabloid Fixture Manti Te’o Drafted By San Diego Chargers


Manti Te’o and Notre Dame remained the lone unbeaten team by routing Wake Forest 38-0 on Saturday. (Michael Conroy/AP)

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(CNN) — After sweating out several weeks when news broke that his “late girlfriend” never existed — and after sweating out the first day of the NFL draft without getting picked — Manti Te’o can now sit back, knowing he has a home in professional football.

The San Diego Chargers drafted the Notre Dame star and one-time tabloid fixture with the draft’s 38th pick, the sixth selection of the second round.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up talked during last season about his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, a 22-year-old Stanford University student whom he said died within hours of his beloved grandmother.

The sports website Deadspin broke the story in January that Kekua wasn’t real, and Te’o subsequently insisted he’d been the victim of a hoax.

A California man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo later admitted on the “Dr. Phil” show that he’d created the alter persona of Kekua, even pretending to be a woman when he talked frequently to the Notre Dame linebacker.

Some had speculated Te’o, who led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season before they lost in the national title game to Alabama, could go in the first round. But every team with a pick passed.

Another player who slid down NFL draft boards, despite the predictions of many NFL prognosticators, was West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. He was selected 39th, right after Te’o, by the New York Jets — who currently also have Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow on their roster.

Overall, the top of the NFL draft wasn’t dominated as it often is by big-name playmakers — there were no running backs chosen in the first round.

In fact, three of the first four picks were offensive lineman, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs tapping Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher No. 1 overall.

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