Vikings' Smith asked often about Te'o

Vikings safety Harrison Smith said nearly everyone he's talked to in football wanted to know about Manti Te'o. It's no surprise that the Vikings tapped into their former Notre Dame players to learn more about the linebacker who eventually went to San Diego in the second round. See what Smith had to say about the subject when we asked.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman cautioned reporters before the NFL draft that just because he was known to have dinner with former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o didn't mean the Vikings were going to draft him.

As it turned out, they didn't. They passed on Te'o three times in the first round, selecting Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd No. 23 overall and then Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 25, with the first-round pick the Vikings received in the Percy Harvin trade. Then, when the Vikings traded away their Day 2 picks in addition to fourth- and seventh-rounders to move up to No. 29 overall, they passed on Te'o a third time.

Perhaps no other team in the NFL had got to know Te'o as well as the Vikings. In addition to interviewing him at the NFL Scouting Combine, having dinner with him before his pro day at Notre Dame and attending his workout, Minnesota has five former Notre Dame players on the team.

Spielman and the Vikings brass were among those who asked last year's first-round pick, safety Harrison Smith, about Te'o.

"Everyone I've talked to has asked me about Te'o. I think most people kind of know. It's obviously just a weird story, so there's a lot of attention on it," Harrison said, referencing the mythical girlfriend Te'o was supposedly dating but instead turned out to be an Internet hoax that brought the term ‘catfishing' into the NFL lexicon. "But at the end of the day, I think everybody knew that he's a good guy and obviously the tape is what they're going to go off the most. I was asked by literally everyone I came in contact with that is involved in football."

There is good reason for that. Smith played on the same Notre Dame defense as Te'o before the safety became a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2012.

Spielman's in-depth research on NFL draft prospects certainly isn't limited to Te'o, but the fact that he personally had dinner with Te'o and the fact that the Vikings lost incumbent middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley in free agency led many to believe Te'o would be a target for the Vikings.

"We've visited with some of them (former Notre Dame players on the Vikings' roster)," Spielman admitted before the draft. "We've visited with coaches. We've visited with a lot of people, but I also know when you're visiting with a player or you're visiting with a coach, or you're on campus and visiting with someone, take everything into account and you have to take it with a grain of salt, too, because some may see no holes. I've been on campuses where guys see too many holes where I didn't agree with what they were telling me either. So, you just take all that information into account to come up with your decision."

No player has generated the media interest at the NFL Scouting Combine as Te'o did in February as reporters crowded around his press conference looking for answers to the girlfriend hoax. That story is likely to continue following him to the San Diego Chargers, who drafted Te'o in the second round.

Despite the extra publicity it would have garnered, Smith said he isn't relieved Te'o isn't a Viking.

"It would have fun to play with Manti," he said Wednesday after a workout in the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility. "I played with him for four years and he's a good guy. He plays hard and he has a lot of passion. That would have been fine with me."

Some analysts and scouts figure it will be an extra adjustment for Te'o in an NFL locker room, where giving teammates grief about anything and everything is second nature.

"It would have been the same wherever he goes," Smith said. "It will be that way with the Chargers. They'll give him a hard time and then he'll get on the field and make some plays and it will go away after a while."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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