For a guy who was in a no-win situation, Manti Te'o handled the media blitz at the NFL Combine about as well as could be expected Saturday afternoon.
The Notre Dame linebacker became embroiled in an unbelievable controversy regarding the death of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, a story that was revealed to be a complete fabrication even down to Kukua's very existence.
In facing the media for the first time – other than a one-on-one interview – Te'o handled himself well, delicately talking about the topic of the hoax without giving many details of what happened.
Asked about the incident that blew up so big that his own family had to sneak into their house in Hawaii to avoid being seen, Te'o replied, “Just why? It should never get that way. As people we have to realize that we’re all people, somebody is somebody’s son,somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? Through this whole experience I’ve learned that. Since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think ‘That’s somebody/s son. That’s somebody/s daughter.
That’s somebody’s mom, dad. Whatever I do try to base what I do off of that..”
Te'o said the hardest part of going through the media backlash and scrutiny was simply seeing his name and the name of his family soiled by the unwanted but inevitable attention.
“It got overwhelming at times. The hardest part and I’ve said was just to see, not necessarily my first name, but my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, stays here is your last name. To see your last name everywhere and know I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and uncles…,” Te'o said.
As for what NFL teams wanted to know, the linebacker said, “Quite a few teams asked me about it. They said just tell me the facts. They wanted to hear it from me.”
In meeting with the full media and with NFL teams, Te'o seemed to hope for a catharsis both personally and professionally.
“I could have done some things differently. I could have done a lot different. … It's definitely embarrassing. I guess it's part of the process, part of the journey. But it's something that will make me stronger,” he said.
Now, Te'o wants the focus on him to get back to football as soon as possible.
“I'm just looking forward to getting better and getting back into football. I think I've answered everything I could and I'd really like to focus on football,” he said.
As for what he learned from such an incident, Te'o said, “Everybody makes mistakes. One of the positive things I've learned is to empathize with people who are going through the same thing, going through hard times. It's just taught me to always give somebody the benefit of the doubt.”
Now he has to hope that some NFL team will do just that.
FYI, Te'o revealed during his media session that he met with the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers and will meet with 18 other teams here at the Combine.
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Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com
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