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Why Manti Te’o ‘needed to reveal’ details of catfish scandal

Manti Te’o is finally speaking in public on the catfishing scandal that took over his life 10 years ago in order to “heal,” the linebacker said in an interview.

Te’o told “CBS Mornings” when he was on the Saints in 2017, teammate Cam Jordan took a bunch of players to a Jay-Z concert, where the rap star opened with, “you cannot heal what you don’t reveal.”

Manti Te'o appearing on "CBS Mornings"
Manti Te’o appearing on “CBS Mornings”

“It may have just been some random words to everybody, but for me at that time, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to reveal it,” Te’o said.

“I challenged myself at this time that if anybody asked about it or had questions about it, I would be open and I would have those hard conversations, and I started to feel the strength that I would get from talking about it.”

Te’o participated in a two-part Netflix documentary titled “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” in which he revealed his side of the story. In 2012, when the linebacker was a senior at Notre Dame, he said both his grandmother and girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had died. Te’o had only communicated with Kekua, who was said to have suffered a serious car accident before being diagnosed with leukemia, virtually.

The next year, Deadspin reported that the person behind Kekua’s online persona was Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a person from Seattle.

“I didn’t know what to believe,” Te’o said. “You don’t expect for somebody to say, ‘Hey, somebody’s dead,’ and three months later, ‘Somebody’s alive.’ What do you do with that information? Do you call somebody and say, ‘Hey, I just found out somebody’s alive?’”

He told CBS that there he had tried to meet up with Kekua, even purchasing plane tickets.

“There were excuses of, ‘Oh a family member is ill. Somebody was in the hospital,’ ” he said. “And for me, I’m not going to be like, ‘Prove it.’”

Te’o went on to have a career in the NFL and is now a free agent, having last played for the Bears in 2020. He added he felt like the story overshadowed his grandmother, who died during that 2012 season.

Manti Te'o playing for Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2011.
Manti Te’o playing for Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2011.
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“If there’s anything I would like to do, it’s to give my grandmother that respect that has kind of been missed the last 10 years,” he said, “because I did lose my grandmother.”

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