Manti Te'o laughed and smiled and seemed to have accepted the new reality in his life: that a football star who almost won the Heisman Trophy...
INDIANAPOLIS — Manti Te’o laughed and smiled and seemed to have accepted the new reality in his life: that a football star who almost won the Heisman Trophy now has his name indelibly linked to a hoax involving a girlfriend who never existed.
“When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like giving people double-takes to see if they’re staring at you, it’s definitely embarrassing,” Te’o said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.
But Te’o also said he wouldn’t have stood up in front of hundreds of reporters in his first news conference since the report surfaced last month if he had not moved past the embarrassment. Te’o took questions for nearly 15 minutes and offered a statement at the end thanking his family, his friends, Notre Dame and all his supporters. He said he hoped the attention could now return to football.
That’s wishful thinking because the story won’t go away. But Saturday was a big step, and it also mattered to NFL teams who wanted to see how Te’o would publicly handle the scrutiny.
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“I think that’s a very valuable part of the process,” Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “It’s not a be-all, end-all decision-maker, but we can tell if this guy needs some polish or technique if we do draft this guy on how to handle the media.”
Te’o is facing similar inquisitions from teams. Te’o had formally met with two teams before the news conference, and will meet with 18 more. There are also informal meetings. Te’o said the hoax comes up in each meeting.
“Some go to certain lengths, some just ask me, ‘Just give me a brief overview of how it was,’ then they get straight to business,” Te’o said.
Te’o said the most difficult part of the past month has been the burden on his family. He also said considering legal action against the perpetrator would be “the worst thing” he could do because his family and the perpetrator’s family have already endured enough.
It was clear that Te’o was well prepared, although the innocence that had become a common description of him after the news was revealed appears lost.