With the Falcons director of personnel Lionel Vital intently watching on, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o addressed the embarrassing internet hoax at the NFL scouting combine Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Vital is second in command to general manger Thomas Dimitroff, who said that the team would interview Te’o. The Falcons wanted to see how Te’o handled the interview, which lasted 14 minutes, 24 seconds.
Te’o stated that he wanted to talk about football, but opened up as the interview progressed.
“I’m just very grateful to those who helped me get through that time,” said Te’o, who’s considered one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the draft. “I think it went as smoothly as it could.”
Te’o is projected to be selected in the first round, but doesn’t know if the girl friend hoax will hurt his draft status. He’s already interviewed with Houston and Green Bay.
“They all just wanted to hear from me what the truth was,” Te’o said. “They haven’t really said anything about it affecting me (in the draft). Some teams just start and briefly talk about it for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is just all plays and getting down to business.”
Since it was a man that was behind the hoax, some contend that Te’o could have a rough time blending into some NFL locker rooms.
“I think I’ve learned the difference between things I can control and things I can’t control,” Te’o said. “Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me and I’m going to work hard. I’ll just do my best to help the team win.”
Te’o didn’t wilt under crush of the large media gathering.
“I’ve been in front of a few cameras before, but nothing like this,” Te’o said.
Seeing his last name in the news in a negative light had a major impression on Te’o, a native of Hawaii.
“You treasure your last name,” Te’o said. “When we pass on, the only thing that stays here is your last name. Just to see my last name out there and know that it represented by family and cousins was tough.”
He knew that the NFL teams would want to know more details about the hoax.
“I understand the questions, but I think I’ve answered everything that I could,” Te’o said. “I really would like to talk about football. … I could have done some things differently, obviously. There were a lot of things that were not very good.
“Definitely, it was embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process and part of the journey. It is something that is going to make me stronger.”
Teams have done their own investigations into the situation and other social media platforms. Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman noted that they know how many times players have tweeted on
“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. Everybody here, I know they are just trying to get to know me as a person and as a football player. I understand where they are coming from.”
On the field, Te’o said his inspiration is former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis.
“I’ve grown up watching Ray Lewis,” Te’o said. “Just watching his intensity and his passion for the game, his love for the game and his work ethic; he had everything in a linebacker that you want.”