INDIANAPOLIS – Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta aced the unofficial test on patience at the NFL Combine.
Over the course of a 15-minute interview session with the media on Sunday, Motta answered questions about the following topics (paraphrased for brevity):
* What's the deal with Manti Te'o?
* Why did Alabama beat the tar out of your defense?
* Were you guys unprepared for Alabama?
* So, what's the deal with Manti Te'o?
As you'll notice, none of the above had much, if any, relevance to the reason Motta is in Indianapolis – to demonstrate his potential as an NFL player. But it's to his credit that he didn't tell any reporter to get a life and only once used the phrase “It is what it is” (in analysis of Te'o's situation).
So, to get to a pertinent question, what did he want to demonstrate to the scouts in Indy?
“That I can run fast and play the ball in the air,” he said. “For some reason, people don't think I have good hands. I want to show them I have good hands.”
He also wanted to stress what he believes he can bring to an NFL team.
“I have to be able to cover deep and come up and make big hits,” he said, “which is what I think I bring to the table.”
Motta talked with former Notre Dame safety and teammate Harrison Smith about what to expect at the combine. Smith, now with the Minnesota Vikings, kept his advice succinct: “Be yourself.”
“Playing in the NFL has always been my dream,” Motta said. “It became more of a reality this past season with the way my evolution took place as a player. I felt I had a pretty good season.”
Motta, who is 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds, didn't play as much during his early Notre Dame career due to being behind Smith. Smith is 6-2, 214. (How are they similar? “We have similar body types; we're both white,” Motta said.)
Motta had 77 tackles and three pass breakups in 2012, and hopes to parlay his potential into a draft spot within the first three rounds. Smith was a first-round pick, but Motta isn't expected to go that high.
“(Smith) has had a great rookie season and he's done awesome,” Motta said. “He definitely set the bar high. I'm looking to try to go out there and exceed those expectations.”
Motta said he believes he can play either free or strong safety in the NFL.
“I'm not one of those rah-rah types,” he said. “I like to keep my head down and have a business-like approach. I love this game and I'll try to continue to improve and learn from people who have been there and done it.”
As far as Motta's response to the patience-testing media inquiries, he didn't shy away.
On Alabama: “We were out-matched, period, point blank.”
On not being prepared: “That was definitely the first time we had seen an offense of that caliber. …From a defensive perspective, we just didn't execute.”
On Te'o: “That whole situation – it was very unfortunate to happen to such a great person in my mind.”
The next step belongs to the NFL. They'll judge Motta on his readiness to play a great game, as well as talk one.
“My approach to everything is to do the most I can to make sure I do everything right,” he said. “”Then, when game time comes, I'll make the plays wherever that may be.”