A fatigued but contrite Manti Te’o talked for roughly 20 minutes with hundreds of reporters here at the NFL Scouting Combine, the first time he’s talked with a full media group since a report surfaced on Jan. 16 that the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was a hoax.
“It was just a whirlwind for stuff for me, a 22-year-old – 21 at the time – just trying to get your thoughts right,” Te’o said, when asked why he waited so long to publically address the situation. “Everything was kind of chaos for a little bit, so you let that chaos kind of die down. And wait until everybody’s ready to listen.”
Te’o said he’s met with two teams so far, the Texans and the Packers, and he’s scheduled to meet formally with 18 more at the combine. Te’o said all the teams that have contacted him so far have asked by the incident.
And what are they asking?
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“Just tell me the facts,” Te’o said. “They want to hear it from me basically what happened.”
Te’o said he’s not concerned with how the incident will affect his relationship with players in an NFL locker room, or his ability to assume a leadership role as a middle linebacker and quarterback of the defense.
“No, I’ve learned the difference between the things that I can control, and the things I can’t control,” he said. “And hopefully by doing the things I can control well, I’ll have more favor in the other category. Whatever team I do go to, I’m just going to be me and work hard.”
And he said the hardest part of dealing with the aftermath of the reports is his family dealing with photographers camping out in front of their home.
“The toughest moment to be honest with you was a phone call that I got from my sister when she told me that they had to sneak my family into my own home because there were people parked out in the yard and stuff like that,” Te’o said. “That had to be the hardest part. And for me, something that I’ve always had a problem with is when I can’t do something about it. And I can’t help. So to know that my family was in that situation because of the actions I committed was definitely the hardest part.”
Te’o also lamented the staining of his family name.
“You treasure your last name,” he said. “That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays here is your last name.”
He called the incident embarrassing, but also something he’s come to terms with.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” Te’o said. “You’re walking though a grocery story, and you’re kind of giving people double takes to see if they’re staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. It’s I guess part of the process, part of the journey. It’s only going to make me strong, and it definitely has.”