For a guy who was in a no-win situation, Manti Te'o handled the media blitz at the NFL Combine about as well as could be expected Saturday afternoon.
The Notre Dame linebacker became embroiled in an unbelievable controversy regarding the death of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, a story that was revealed to be a complete fabrication even down to Kukua's very existence.
In facing the media for the first time – other than a one-on-one interview – Te'o handled himself well, delicately talking about the topic of the hoax without giving many details of what happened.
Asked what the biggest question he had in the whole incident that went from being a heartwarming and inspirational tale to simply being a tall-tale, Te'o replied, “It's just why. We're all people. Someone is somebody's son or somebody's daughter and I try to picture it that way.”
Te'o said the hardest part of going through the media backlash and scrutiny was simply seeing his name and the name of his family soiled by the unwanted but inevitable attention.
“I think the hardest part was my name - not my first name but my last name. You treasure your last name. That's something that when you're gone stays here, your last name. My last name is what I represent and my family,” Te'o said.
As for what NFL teams wanted to know, the linebacker said, “Quite a few teams asked me about it. They said just tell me the facts. They wanted to hear it from me.”
In meeting with the full media and with NFL teams, Te'o seemed to hope for a catharsis both personally and professionally.
“I could have done some things differently. I could have done a lot different. … It's definitely embarrassing. I guess it's part of the process, part of the journey. But it's something that will make me stronger,” he said.
Now, Te'o wants the focus on him to get back to football as soon as possible.
“I'm just looking forward to getting better and getting back into football. I think I've answered everything I could and I'd really like to focus on football,” he said.
As for what he learned from such an incident, Te'o said, “Everybody makes mistakes. One of the positive things I've learned is to empathize with people who are going through the same thing, going through hard times. It's just taught me to always give somebody the benefit of the doubt.”
Now he has to hope that some NFL team will do just that.
FYI, Te'o revealed during his media session that he met with the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers and will meet with 18 other teams here at the Combine.
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Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com