Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o made a 15-minute appearance in the media room at NFL Scouting Combine Saturday. Here’s the full transcript of his comments:
Te’o (taking the stage and laughing): “That’s a lot of cameras.”
Q: How are you feeling?
Te’o: “ I’m kind of tired right now. A long day, medical exams. It’s all part of the process.”
Q: Are you tired of answering all the questions about the (fake dead girlfriend) incident?
“Yeah, about the incident, I’ve said all I need to say about that. 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. Just trying to enjoy the moment.”
Q: How much have you been asked about it by NFL teams?
Te’o: “Quite a few teams asked me about it. 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.”
Q: Why didn’t you play well in the national championship game?
“That’s because I didn’t. That’s all on me. I played hard and so did my team, but Alabama had a great game plan and so did we. They executed better than we did.”
Q: Was the other situation a distraction to you leading up to that game?
Q: Any teams not ask you about it?
Te’o: “No (laughs). They all ask me about it.”
Q: What are they asking you?
Te’o: “Just tell me the facts. They want to hear it from me. Just tell them basically what happened.”
Q: Do you think it might hurt you?
Te’o: “That I don’t know. That I don’t know.”
Q: Could you summarize the facts?
Te’o: “Just I care for somebody and that’s what I was taught to do. 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.”
Q: Why wait so long to say something?
Te’o: “It was just a whirlwind of stuff. A 22-year-old, 21-year old at that time, just trying to get your thoughts right. Everybody was just kind of chaos for a little bit, so you let that chaos die down and wait until everybody’s ready to listen.”
Q: Do you understand people might doubt your version of events because it took you so long?
Te’o: “That I don’t know, people doubting because I took a while to come out. 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.”
Q: Have you gotten a sense from NFL people it might affect you in draft?
Te’o: “No, not really. They’ve told me that, . . . they’ve wanted to hear it from me what the truth was. They haven’t really said anything about it affecting me.
“Some guys just talk briefly for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be.”
Q: Do you worry how you’ll be treated in the locker room, trouble assuming a leadership role?
Te’o: “No. I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. 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.”
Q: Can you believe the fascination like this?
Te’o: “It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this.”
Q: “What about when it came out, every news channel, lead story. You surprised?”
Te’o: “I was. It got overwhelming at times. The hardest part and I’ve said 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, . . .
Q: Are you prepared to deal with this for the next couple years?
Te’o: “Oh, yeah. For me, I hopefully I’m just looking forward to getting straight to football. I understand people have questions, but I’ve answered everything I could. For me I’d really like to talk about football.”
Q: Had you planned to go to the Senior Bowl, did this change your mind?
Te’o: “No. I didn’t get that far. I was still worrying about the national championship. I didn’t get that far.”
Q: Who are some of the teams you’ve met with?
Te’o: “I’ve met with the Texans and I met with the Packers.”
Q: Why didn’t you attempt to go see a girl you cared so much about?
Te’o: “I did. We made plans, obviously it didn’t work out.”
Q: How many more teams do you expect to talk to and which ones?
Te’o: “I don’t know, I’m not sure. I know I’ll be meeting formally with 18 more teams. I don’t know specifically who they are. I’ll find out soon. I’m meeting with 20 total.”
Q: What are you telling teams you bring to the table as a player?
Te’o: “I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard. Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ The reason why I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. It’s those times where I lose that feeling that will stick with me. For teams 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.’”
Q: Have any lingering regret over all this?
Te’o: “I could have done some things different, obviously, done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff. But throughout my experience my senior year, I wouldn’t do anything different.”
Q: Has this been embarrassing?
Te’o: “Oh, definitely. For anybody to go through, it’s definitely embarrassing. When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like 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.”
Q: Have you gotten past the point of being embarrassed about it?
Te’o: “Oh, definitely. It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing in front of you.”
Q: Can you understand what NFL teams are trying to get at?
Te’o: “Yeah, they want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. With everybody here, 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.”
Q: Does that make you feel you’ve got a hurdle to overcome in the honesty department?
Te’o: “It could be a hurdle, but it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I’ve approached it and it’s been a great growing experience for me.”
Q: Ravens have been mentioned a lot as a destination for you. How much would you like to follow Ray Lewis?
Te’o: “Aw, definitely, whatever team I go to, but definitely the Ravens. Ray Lewis, I’ve grown up watching Ray Lewis. Just watching his intensity, his passion for the game, his love for the game, his work ethic. Everything in a linebacker that you want to be is in Ray Lewis, from leadership qualities, all that. He’ll be definitely missed in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole.
“If I get to go to Baltimore, it will definitely be some big shoes to fill, but an opportunity I’ll be honored to have.”
Q: What’s different about you now?
Te’o: “For me I’ve learned just to be honest in anything and everything you do, from the big things to the small things. Secondly, to keep your circle very small and to understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. I think going off of the season my team and I had, there’s a lot of people in our corner. Then when Jan. 16 happened, there’s a lot of people in the other corner. I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me and to just make sure you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.”
Q: What’s been the toughest moment since all this came out?
Te’o: “I think the toughest moment, to be honest with you, was a phone call that I got from my sister where she told me that they had to sneak my own family in their home because there were people parked out in the yard and stuff like that. That had to be the hardest part.
“And for me, something that I’ve always had a problem with is when I can’t do something about it; I can’t help. To know that my family was in this situation because of the actions I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”
Q: As a player what kind of challenges can you anticipate at the next level?
Te’o: “The game gets even faster, a lot more complex. What I have to do as a player is I have to remember why I’m playing this game. It’s the same game I played when I was a little kid on the streets, same thing, football’s still the same shape. Obviously people are going to be professionals. This is where the best play. But as long as I don’t stray too far from who I am and what I believe in, I think the journey will be worth it.”
Q: Players have been arrested, had drug issues, does it bother you that you’re under the same scrutiny as guys who have been in jail?
Te’o: “Everybody makes mistakes and one of the positive things about what I went through is I’ve learned to empathize with those who are going through the same thing. Those who are going through some hard times, who are getting attention that they don’t necessarily want. It just taught me to always give somebody the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘You never know, you never know what’s going on with a person.’”
Q: What about the difference between situations?
Te’o: “That’s something I don’t believe I can comment on.”
Q: Did you consider legal action against Ronaiah Tuisasosopo?
Te’o: “I think that’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s not only people camped out at my house, there’s people camped out at his house. I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff.
“I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Always try and forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. I always try to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”
Q: Are you dating anybody in real life?
Te’o: “No, not right now.”
Q: When your sister called about sneaking parents in, what was your emotion?
Te’o: “Just why? It should never get that way. As people we have to realize that we’re all people, somebody is somebody’s son, somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? Through this whole experience I’ve learned that.
“Since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think ‘That’s somebody/s son. That’s somebody’s daughter. That’s somebody’s mom, dad. Whatever I do try to base what I do off of that.”
Te’o: “In closing, I’d like to thank everybody for being here. It’s been a hard but tremendous ride for me and my family and the University of Notre Dame. I’d like to thank my parents, my family, my friends, the University of Notre Dame and everybody who supports me. I couldn’t do it without all of you.
“Hopefully after this I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on with football. So thank you, everybody.”