INDIANAPOLIS – At 2:15 p.m. on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the global village was realized when Manti Te’o stepped to podium C to address a large portion of the 800-plus media credentialed for the NFL Combine.
A relaxed Te’o weaved his way to the microphone propped up before at least 100 reporters and approximately 60 cameras. Media forms – traditional, social and all others – waited for him to speak.
“About the incident, I’ve said all I need to say about that,” said Te’o. “How I’m handling it going forward is doing what I’m doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the combine.
“Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. (I’m) just trying to enjoy the moment.”
Te’o was the victim of a hoax involving the existence of a possible girlfriend who turned out did not exist. The story took on national headlines as it played out through twists and turns.
Te’o has met with two of the 20 teams with whom he is scheduled to interview. He said both teams hit on the personal issue in addition to football. He understands the need for teams to do so.
“They want to be able to trust their player,” said Te’o. “You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. They’re just trying to get to know you, get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.
“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 spoke smoothly for about 14 minutes. At times his hands grasped the podium. Other times, they were in his pockets. Te’o gracefully took questions and gave thoughtful responses, making eye contact at all times possible.
Though prepared extensively for the moment, he sounded mostly unrehearsed.
Te’o said the embarrassment of the situation has subsided, and that is why he was able to address matters in a large press setting.
Te’o said his personal matter did not affect his play in the 42-14 loss to Alabama for the national title. He credited Alabama’s game plan and better execution.
As media probed, he portrayed his emotions of the situation that involved Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
“Just I care for somebody and that’s what I was taught to do,” said Te’o. “Ever since I was young if somebody needs help, you help them out. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”
He said the whirlwind of the situation was chaotic enough that he chose to let the matter settle before he addressed it.
When asked if he understood some could doubt his version of the events, Te’o stated, “From our point of view we wanted everything to come out first and then have my side come out. The way we did I felt worked best for me. I’m very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. I felt it went as smoothly as it could.
“It got overwhelming at times. The hardest part was just to see, not necessarily my first name, but my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, stays here is your last name. To see your last name everywhere and know I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and uncles…”
A believable Te’o said he did not know if this situation would affect his draft status. He did say what he will tell teams when they ask what he can contribute.
“What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard,” said Te’o. “I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ I tell them, ‘You’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much and will do everything it takes to win.’ ”