One right after another they went Friday — the boyfriend of fake dead girlfriend fame and the green-room sympathy case finally became NFL players.
And just as quickly, Manti Te’o and Geno Smith also became the story of this NFL Draft.
Day 2 of the draft unintentionally became a parade of The Island of Misfit Toys. All the guys who slid out of the first round because of doubt or questions — including Tyrann Mathieu, officially the only player to smoke so much dope that an SEC team booted him — helped make Friday infinitely more interesting than Thursday.
Notre Dame linebacker Te’o, the man with the most famous dead friend since Weekend At Bernie’s, stopped the slide by going No. 38 to San Diego. Then Smith, the question mark whose free fall from a possible No. 2 to Day 2 was captured on national TV, immediately followed him at No. 39 to the New York Jets because, of course, that team needed a little more chaos.
These are the names people know for a variety of reasons, and instantly turned San Diego into a national non-sports and sports story and the Jets into the talk of New York City.
Look for both minicamps to be well attended, with Jets minicamp likely to eclipse Tim Tebow’s signing on the zoo scale.
“That’s the NFL and that’s the position of quarterback,” Smith said. “I’ve played this position my whole life and I understand that is comes with the territory and I’m prepared for it.”
By the time Jets legend Wayne Chrebet called Geno Smith’s name at the NFL draft Friday, the West Virginia quarterback walked onto stage with a stoicism instead of a smile.
He had packed only a single suit for his trip to NYC, had vowed to go home after being passed on 32 times on Thursday, his mom’s birthday by the way, and admitted his supporters had talked him into returning.
He had not expected to be available for selection on Friday, and this biggie-sized bag of chips on his shoulder will be fuel, despite him saying otherwise.
“It’s just that I kind of took that to heart, the things that happened yesterday,” a circumspect Smith said afterward. “I believe it is a positive to see 32 other guys get picked.”
Why he fell so far, so hard, is debatable. Where he landed being a blessing is not. He has a chance to become a starter and a hero for a Jets fanbase whose patience with Mark Sanchez has reached a tipping point. And judging by Friday, the feeling extends to inside Florham Park, where the Jets train, as well.
If bringing in Tebow a year ago created a circus, Geno just added another, bigger ring. How Sanchez responds will be interesting.
Sanchez is now, officially, playing for his job if not already well down the path to being released. And while Smith initially said he’s ready to win a starting job while, after talking to GM John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan, he took a more politic tone.
“I would hope so,” he said when asked about competing for the starting job. “I’m coming in with the intentions to compete. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Te’o’s case is more interesting. There is no more hiding from questions in Hawaii, and he’d be wise to work on his explanations — many of which were fileted in a just-released Vanity Fair article about him. There is the problem of why this “victim” talked of his dead girlfriend two days after reportedly being told she was neither dead nor real. The story of the dead girlfriend and the hoax does not need retelling here, but, if he thinks this issue is dead, I have another girl to introduce him to in California.
And if you or he thinks that is harsh, wait until he steps into a locker room. Or on a field. I have had players tell me he’s in for a lot of hazing.
And maybe, he’s ready.
Te’o told Chargers reporters that he thought his friends were pranking him when a Cali number appeared on his cell phone. The experience has been humbling, but it will not be crippling.
He needs to focus on proving that what we saw against ‘Bama is not a representation of what he is. This is ultimately why he slid, why all of them did. Crazy talent has a way of overriding all varieties of other crazy on draft day.
Of course, the crazy is just now beginning.
Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times in San Diego and New York, this ride is about to get interesting.