INDIANAPOLIS — Linebacker Manti Te’o said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he hopes he has put the embarrassment of his highly publicized girlfriend hoax behind him and now can return to focusing on football.
“I understand that people have questions,” Te’o said. “But I think I’ve answered everything I could. For me, I’d really like to talk about football.”
The former Notre Dame standout spoke to reporters for close to 15 minutes in the combine media room inside Lucas Oil Stadium. He was surrounded by dozens of TV cameras.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said. “I’ve been in front of a few cameras. But not as many as this.”
Te’o spent little to no time on the details of the controversy stemming from the revelation that his moving story about dealing with the heartbreak of his late girlfriend’s illness and death turned out to be untrue and that the girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed. Te’o previously has denied involvement and has said he was the victim of a hoax.
He said Saturday: “I said all I needed to say about that.”
But he was reflective, calling the episode “definitely embarrassing” and acknowledging that he made mistakes.
“I could have done some things different, obviously,” he said.
Te’o said he was grateful to those who helped him get past the incident and believes he has managed to put it behind him relatively smoothly. The toughest moment for him, he said, was receiving a phone call from his sister informing him that his family had to sneak into its own house because of the number of people gathered outside waiting for them. He said that “everybody makes mistakes” and he has learned to empathize with those going through tough times.
“I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me,” said Te’o, who closed, after answering the final question asked of him, by thanking his family, friends, Notre Dame and others who have supported him.
Te’o underwent medical exams Saturday as part of the combine routine and said he was a bit tired by the time he was escorted to the media room early in the afternoon. Reporters had crowded around the podium a couple hours earlier, only to be told that Te’o’s promised arrival at that point was a false alarm.
He said he’d met with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans already and had formal meetings scheduled with 18 other NFL teams. He said he understood that teams are trying to determine if he’s a player they can trust. He said teams’ attitudes in interviews with him so far have been: “Just tell me the facts.”
Te’o said he would love to go to Baltimore and try to follow in the footsteps of just-retired linebacker Ray Lewis with the Ravens.
He said his sharply criticized performance against Alabama in the collegiate national championship game was “all on me,” adding: “I played hard.”