Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o hasn’t made many public appearances since news that his girlfriend – the woman who inspired him the bulk of the season – turned out to be a hoax.
But on Saturday, he ventured out to the Notre Dame-Louisville basketball game – a five-overtime barnburner - his first mass public sighting since shortly after the national championship.
The reception was mixed. While the crowd cheered his presence, many on social media started cracking the same jokes about his fake girlfriend that we’ve been hearing since the news first broke.
But ESPN announcer Dick Vitale wasn’t having any of it. Instead, he turned into suck-up mode and praised Te’o for his composure during such a horrible ordeal.
"Tell you what, he went through an unbelievable scene there. A cruel hoax, I mean a cruel hoax on the young guy. I'm so happy to hear he wasn't part of the hoax. He made a few mistakes along the way but he's a young kid and you move on, you move on with your life. Down deep, everybody I talked to said he's really a good kid."
Katie Couric, who conducted Te'o's on on-air interview, would probably agree.
Te’o declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl and has been quietly working out at the IMG Academy in Florida. The NFL Combine at the end of this month will be a real test as NFL scouts will probably spend more time questioning his mental state than his abilities on the field.