After former Notre Dame defensive backs Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith were selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, safety Zeke Motta entered his final year with the Fighting Irish last fall with a clear path to the pros. Smith improved exponentially over his career in South Bend, rising to first-round status when he was selected 29th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
Joining Smith in Minnesota was cornerback Blanton, who was taken 139th overall in the fifth round and converted to safety. Smith enjoyed a phenomenal rookie campaign with 112 tackles and three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) as a starter. Blanton registered 14 tackles as a reserve and special team performer.
Their success could only help Motta, who started alongside Smith in 2011 and led the Irish back line in 2012 with 77 tackles. Blanton and Smith also helped themselves considerably with fine showings at the NFL Scouting Combine. Motta, however, wasn’t at his best.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder was last in the 40-yard dash (4.83 seconds) among 21 participating safeties last month in Indianapolis. He also only put up 11 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press (19th of 19). His vertical (35.5 inches) was pedestrian at that position (13th of 21), but he was better in some of the drills that sometimes give even the most athletic prospects problems, such as the broad jump (126 inches), three-cone drill (6.75 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds). In each of those events, Motta finished in the top half, including top five in broad jump and the three-cone drill.
At Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 26, he only participated in individual drills, the 40 and bench, somewhat acquitting himself. Motta trimmed his 40 time down to 4.71 seconds and added five reps (16 total) to his bench. He also ran the 60-yard shuttle in 11.69 seconds.