Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o finally spoke about the hoax played on him, where he was led to believe he had an online girlfriend who presumably died from Leukemia. He found out later, devastated, that she never existed. Like most of us, he didn’t want to stand on a mountaintop and shout out the embarrassment.
The good news is, he spilled the beans in an off-camera interview with Jeremy Schaap of ESPN. Manti said he did not concoct this hoax and when he found out he was duped, he felt so awkward that he told others he met the fictional Lennay Kekua in person. As he said to ESPN:
“I knew that — I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn’t meet her as well … So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away so people wouldn’t think I was some crazy dude.”
His humanity has shined through, and unfortunately in a very public way. So now that we’ve seen his human side in a big way, let’s remember why he became a hero in the first place:
As a young sophomore he gets the most tackles in a game for the Irish in 4 years. Junior year he becomes one of 10 players in Notre Dame history to achieve 300 career tackles. Senior Year, the tackling keeps up but he also nabs 7 interceptions, the most by any FBS linebacker in over a decade.
Now let’s get in the red zone with Stanford. The Cardinals are down 20-13 in overtime and so close to the end zone they can smell it. Not only did Manti and the Irish defenders hold them back, it was their 16th straight quarter without letting the opponent score a touchdown.
Onto the south, in the rain-drenched game against Oklahoma: A ball is loose from the Sooner offense, it looks like it’s going to hit the ground, then out of nowhere comes the Prodigy from Hawaii with a diving interception, locking in Notre Dame’s victory.
When we see the hero’s humanity — the barriers they are overcoming both internally and externally — their heroism becomes that much more impressive.
Before this whole debacle, when Chicago television news anchor Kate Sullivan asked Manti about his future plans, without a pause he said: “Giving back.” He said of course he wanted to go to the NFL and make money, but he would use money to help kids. He recalled a young girl he met while volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club who could do cartwheels. He was so impressed with her he said she should go into gymnastics. She explained her parents couldn’t afford to send her to gymnastics.
“Money should never be a reason why a child can’t live a dream,” said Manti. “And if I can have any hand in that, to help some kid live their dream, that’s what I want to do.”
If there is anyone out there who made no mistakes when they were 21 years old, then either you haven’t turned 21 yet, or your memory must be failing you.