INDIANAPOLIS — Notre Dame  linebacker Manti Te’o had the largest press conference of the scouting combine Saturday, with hundreds of reporters packing the area surrounding his podium at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Te’o, an inside backer with first-round talent, was caught in the middle of a bizarre hoax involving an imaginary girlfriend, and the vast majority of questions asked to him by the media Saturday centered on the situation.
“It was definitely embarrassing,” he said. “You’re walking through the grocery stores and you’re giving people double-takes and notice that they’re staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. It’s part of the process, it’s part of the journey, but it’s only going to make me stronger.”
Te’o had said that both his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and his grandmother had died on Sept. 11 of last year. It was later uncovered that Kekua did not exist, with Te’o admitting he never met his girlfriend but insisting he was not in on the hoax. Though Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has confessed to being behind the fictitious online existence of Kekua, questions of Te’o’s involvement in the bizarre ordeal have persisted.
He said Saturday that teams have asked him about it, seeking “the facts.”
“Quite a few teams asked me about it,” he said. “Some go certain lengths, some ask me, ‘Just give me a brief overview of how it was’ and then they just get straight to business about football.”
Te’o certainly seemed to expect the sort of questions he fielded from the media, and he said he understands the same line of interrogation from NFL teams.
“They want to be able to trust their player,” he said. “You don’t want to invest in somebody who you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you. They’re trying to get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.”
Asked what those facts were, Te’o responded, “I cared for somebody and that’s what I was taught to do ever since I was young. If someone needs help, you help them out. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”
The best question asked to Te’o was why he didn’t take legal action against Tuiasosopo, something that would seem logical to do if he weren’t in on it.
“I think that’s the worst thing you could do,” he said. “Both families are going through chaos. There’s not only people camped outside my house, there’s people camped outside his house. I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff. I think the worst thing for me to do is to do that, so it was try to forgive.
“If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. I’ve always tried to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”
Te’o has met with the Texans and Packers and is scheduled to meet with 18 more teams while at the combine. He said he’s received no indication that the ordeal will hurt his draft stock.
“Not really,” he said. “They’ve all just wanted to hear from me what the truth was, and they haven’t said anything about it effecting me [in the draft].”