ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Manti Te'o has denied the reports that some NFL teams inquired about his sexual orientation during interviews at the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier this week.
“No, I don’t think that’s a question they asked,” Te’o said on Friday.
The Notre Dame linebacker's remarks came during a press conference held in honor of Te'o being named the Maxwell Award winner as the nation’s top college player by the Maxwell Football Club. They were his first public comments since several outlets reported Te'o had been asked about his sexuality by teams in advance of the NFL draft.
While teams inquiring about Teo's preference of sexual partners would be newsworthy, it would not have been a first. Katie Couric asked Te’o in a January interview if he was gay.
Te’o laughed and answered “No, far from it."
It should also be noted that other draft prospects have said they were asked similar questions at the combine. Colorado tight end Nick Kasa said he was asked the question "do you like girls?" during his sessions. As previously reported by Yahoo! Sports, the legality of a potential employer asking such a question varies by state.
Last week was a rough week for Te’o, who ran a 4.82 at the combine in the 40-yard dash but was impressive in individual workout drills. Still, that 40 time coupled with the fake girlfriend hoax and a lackluster performance in the national title game against Alabama have all hurt the draft stock of a player once considered a possible top five selection.
At the combine, Te’o had to address a standing-room only press contingent in his first public statements since the “catfish” scandal. The distraction regarding his personal life may have had a negative impact on his performance in the 40, he said on Friday.
“It’s difficult to balance things and to stay as focused on what you got to do," Te'o said. "But for me, I’m glad that the combine is done. I’ve finished that and now I’m focused more on specific things like my 40 and I don’t have to worry so much about other things.
“It’s difficult. I’m not going to say it’s easy because it’s hard, but it’s definitely something you can work through.”
Still, Te’o said that “more positive than negative” came out of the combine as he tries to reclaim his draft stock. He is eyeing the Mar. 26 ‘pro day’ at Notre Dame as a chance to regain some momentum.
As far as the scandal that rocked the college football world, Te’o plans on maintaining a low profile. At the awards press conference, he didn’t speak about the scandal, steering clear and talking only about the Maxwell Award and the upcoming season.
He has a simple approach to sidestepping further scandals.
“Avoid,” Te’o said with a laugh. “Avoid a lot of the stuff. I think [it’s] just knowing what you can control and knowing what you can’t control. What I can control is preparing for the combine. What I can control is making myself the best player, the best person that I can be. Whatever that is, I focus on that.”
Follow Yahoo!Sports Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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