From Indianapolis, Indiana
In the history of the NFL Combine there has not been a moment like what went down at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Unfortunately it had nothing to do with anything that did or will happen on the football field. After arriving on Friday, former Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o made his first public appearance in the aftermath of his dead then fake girlfriend and the uproar that followed those revelations.
That why the Combine press room was wall-to-wall members of the media horde that had been waiting all day for Manti to see his shadow to speak.
It was a necessary part of life for Te’o after everything that has happened over the past six months. He was there, but that did not mean he was excited about going over his personal issues with a couple hundred strangers.
“This is pretty crazy,” Te’o said. “I’ve been in front of a few cameras after a game, but not as many as this.”
The phantom girlfriend saga is something that every NFL team that has talked with him asked for details. Most of the time the conversation was for just 30 to 60
seconds and then the subject would turn to football.
“They want to be able to trust their player,” Te’o said. “You don’t want to invest in somebody who you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from. It could be a hurdle or it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. And that’s the way I’ve approached it.”
When he first spoke from the podium, Te’o made it plain he had no desire to rehash the story and all of its ramifications.
“About the incident, I’ve said all I need to say about that,” Te’o said. “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 sure there’s thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”
But the onslaught of questions could not be stopped, so Te’o ended up talking at length about his lengthy “relationship” on-line with a woman who did not actually exist, that he never met and who supposedly at one time died, only to return again, as she ran away from drug dealers.
Did he have any lingering regret over all this? “I could have done some things different, obviously, done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff,” Te’o said.
Has the whole episode been embarrassing? Oh, definitely,” he said. “For anybody to go through it, it’s definitely embarrassing. When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re giving people double-takes to see if they’re starting at you, it’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, it’s part of the journey. You know it’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has done that.”
Has he gotten past the point of being embarrassed about it? “Oh, definitely,” Te’o said. “It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing in front of you.”
Is he concerned about repercussions in whatever team’s locker room that becomes his new football home? “No, I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control,” Manti said. “And hopefully by doing the things I can control well I’ll have more favor in the other category. Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to do my best to help the team win. And whatever happens happens.”