In perhaps the most anticipated player news conference in NFL scouting history, highly decorated Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti T’eo answered questions from a massive media horde Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, mainly about being duped into a girlfriend hoax by a man.
Media filled the interview area in anticipation of Te’o’s session. Several minutes later, word came out it would be delayed for more than a couple of hours. When Te’o finally met the media, it was in front of an overflow crowd in Indianapolis, Ind.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Te’o said during one of the lighter moments of his session. “I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this.”
Instead of talking about being a potential top-five pick, Te’o spent his media session discussing his role in the hoax that first broke in January.
Te’o appeared at times calm and emotional, politely and patiently answering every question, nearly all of them centered on the hoax. He ended his media session by thanking Notre Dame, his family and everyone who helped him cope in the past several weeks. He said wanted to focus on football from this point forward.
When Te’o took the podium, he quickly said he had already addressed the hoax. He then talked freely about the events.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” Te’o said. “When you walk into the grocery store and you get people giving double takes and they’re sitting there staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, part of the journey. It’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted he was behind an Internet relationship between Te’o and a fabricated woman named Lennay Kekua. The two allegedly communicated for several months on the Internet, but never met in person. Te’o told reporters in September that the woman died of leukemia after being in an auto accident. It became a theme of Te’o’s season, ended in a loss to Alabama in the Discover BCS National Championship.
Te’o continued to talk about the woman in media interviews after he found out about the hoax in December. Previously, he had recounted times of them being together and gave conflicting accounts of how they met. Still, Tuiasosopo and Te’o have maintained he was not part of the hoax, but the victim.
“I could have done things different,” Te’o said Saturday. “I think I’ve learned, first, to be honest in everything I do, the big things and the small things. Also to keep your circle very small and really understand who is in your corner and who is not. Going off of the season my team and I had, there was a lot of people in my corner. Then when January 16 happened, there was a lot of other people in the other corner. I just learned to appreciate and just always turn a negative thing into a positive. … It could be a hurdle, but it could also be an opportunity to show how you really are. That’s the way I have approached it and it’s been a big learning experience for me.”
Te’o said he most feels for his family and the family name. He said he felt badly for putting his parents in a negative light “for actions I committed.”