Manti Te’o only recently overcame the embarrassment of the public exposure brought when it was revealed Jan. 16 that he was fooled by a male acquaintance into believing he was dating a woman he genuinely loved.
The Notre Dame linebacker met with hundreds of media members Saturday, and with poise and patience answered every question, including one from a New York reporter who asked, “Are you dating anyone in real life?”
He’ll meet with a total of 20 teams at the Scouting Combine, including two meetings he had Friday with the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers.
In those 15-minute strictly timed interviews held in team hotel suites, Te’o said he was asked to provide the facts and give a brief overview of what happened.
“They want to be able to trust their player,” said Te’o, a 22-year-old All-American projected to be a first-round pick and the second-ranked inside linebacker in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com. “They don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust.”
Teams will also dig into the reasons he was erased so easily by Alabama’s prospect-heavy offensive line in the national championship game. Te’o said he wasn’t distracted by anything going on off the field or related the hoax.
He credited Alabama for its game plan. A day earlier, Crimson Tide right tackle D.J. Fluker told reporters that Te’o was wiped out by offensive guard Chance Warmack. Warmack is considered a potential top 10 draft pick and the No. 1 interior offensive lineman.
Te’o said he wouldn’t have held the press conference if he was still embarrassed, but the hurt and disappointment he feels from having his last name not his first cast in a negative light leaves a lasting wound.
“The toughest moment to be honest with you was a phone call I got from my sister that they had to sneak my own family into the home,” Te’o said. “…Knowing my family was in the situation because of something I did, that was the hardest part.”
Te’o didn’t say he had regrets over how the hoax played out and said he waited so long to share the truth because he was in a “whirlwind” and chose to wait to give his side.
He will not pursue legal action against any of the individuals involved and said he’s sympathetic to the family of Roniah Tuiasosopo knowing they, too, are going through a difficult time far from their normal routine.
“It got overwhelming at times. I think the hardest part not necessarily my first name, but my last name seeing it out there,” he said.
“Everybody here, that’s what you treasure. That’s what you hold dear. When you leave this earth, that’s what you leave behind.
“For me, hopefully, I’m just looking forward to getting straight to football. I understand people have questions, but I’ve answered everything I could.”
Te’o was considered a possible first-round pick at the end of his junior season but returned to earn his degree and “finish what was started” at Notre Dame.
A faith-centered individual who respectfully thanked his family and school to wrap up his press conference Saturday, Te’o said he’ll continue to seek positives in the aftermath of a negative experience.
“It could be a hurdle,” Te’o said of how teams will view his recent past. “It could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I’ve approached it.
“I think for me I’ve learned first to just be honest in anything you do — everything, big things to the small things. Secondly, keep your circle very small, understand who’s really in your corner and who is not.