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Te'o talks 'embarrassment' of hoax
Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o addressed a room full of reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday and talked about the “embarrassment” he has felt after being lured into an elaborate “catfishing” hoax that drew tons of media attention in early January.
Te’o faced a throng of reporters for nearly 20 minutes following a two-hour delay because of visits with doctors. He gave quick, concise answers on the hoaxing topic, but made it known that he “said all [he] needed to say and that [he’s] focused on football.”
Until this point, Te’o has given only a couple interviews since acknowledging he was a victim of a thorough online relationship with Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman, created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
The Heisman Trophy finalist faced a flurry of questions, ranging from why he didn’t play well in the BCS Championship Game, his embarrassment in grocery stores as people stared and his love for the University of Notre Dame. Throughout it all, he showed tremendous poise and never seemed to get rattled by the more than 500 reporters on scene.
Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s news conference:
Embarrassment of hoax
The incident has apparently caused great angst for star linebacker, and he admitted that he could have done things differently.
"It's definitely embarrassing when you're walking through a grocery store getting double takes and seeing them stare at you,” he said. “It's definitely embarrassing."
Te’o doesn’t expect to be treated any differently in a locker room because of the online hoax and focuses only on the things that he can control.
Twenty teams have interest
Te’o confirmed that he has met with a couple of NFL teams this week and that he doesn’t know how much the hoax has affected his draft stock.
“Quite a few teams have asked me about [the hoax],” he said. “Some ask for a brief overview and then just get to business”
The Texans and Packers, who have both specifically met with Te’o, wanted to hear about the incident. He expects to formally meet with 18 other teams sometime this week.
“Tell me the facts,” Te’o said when discussing what the teams were asking him. “They want to hear it from me.”
Te’o admitted that he doesn’t know if the incident will affect his draft stock.
Crazy attention at NFL Combine
The NFL Combine has been a proving ground for many athletes over the years, but no swarm of media has attracted the amount of attention as Te’o did this year. In fact, several reports on Twitter noted that more than 500 media members were at Te’o’s podium.
“I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this,” he said.
In 2010, Tim Tebow graced the reporters with kind words. In 2011, Cam Newton fought off the negative perception and his comment of being an “entertainer slash icon.” And just last season, both Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were asked about possibly replacing a legendary quarterback in Peyton Manning.
Despite all of the prospects who have been through the annual festivities, none has garnered the type of attention that Te’o did.
What he can bring to a team
Te’o played at a superstar level in 2012. He was a Heisman finalist and led a Notre Dame team to the BCS Championship Game. His instincts and leadership were praised throughout the season and he looks to still be a first-round talent.
“I think I bring a lot of heart, a lot of energy and someone who works hard,” he said. “You will get someone who works hard, is humble and doesn’t say much and I’ll do everything it takes to win.”
Despite a season of heroics, Te’o shriveled up in the biggest game of the season, during Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the National Championship Game.
“I played hard and so did my team, but Alabama had a great game plan, and so did we, but they executed it better than we did.”
Concerns have arose if Te’o could compete on the next level and future first-round picks Barrett Jones as Chance Warmack were able to bully him around in that game.