September 29, 2022

Former football player Manti Te’o made his first public appearance at Notre Dame since he was the victim of a high-profile catfish scheme involving a fake girlfriend.

The 31-year-old received a raucous reception during his first public outing at the school in more than a decade and his first at a game since Netflix released a two-part documentary series detailing how he was tricked.

“It’s always good to be home,” Te’o said as he spoke to fans ahead of the Irish game against California.

“There is no place like home. But I want to make this very clear: it’s not about me. It’s not about one person. It’s about this whole family.’

He attended mass with the team at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus before walking the team to the stadium for the game.

He paused briefly with coach Marcus Freeman to address the crowd, with Touchdown Jesus in the background.

Manti Te’o enters Notre Dame Stadium for the Fighting Irish against the Golden Bears

Te’o met the woman, who he believed to be a 22-year-old college student named Lennay Kekua, online in late 2011, and the athlete quickly fell for her. Seen is the woman he thought was Kekua. used to be

“This team needs all of us,” Te’o said. “It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon when everything is going well.

“It’s easy to move on when everything is right. But what I want to know is, who’s with me?

“Who gets off that wagon and starts pushing me? That’s why I’m here.’

Te’o gave fans a high-five as he walked through the crowd and stopped for photos. He said it was his fourth time at Notre Dame since news of the hoax broke.

Te’o has been pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the Netflix documentary Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, which came out last month.

“All the facts are known and I am happy with it because it is factual. Since day 1 it has only been positive.’

Before joining the San Diego Chargers in 2013 as a second-round pick, Teo played linebacker and placed second for the Heisman Trophy — the award for college football’s most outstanding player — at Notre Dame.

He made national headlines in early 2013 after it was revealed that the woman he thought had been his girlfriend for nearly a year was actually a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Tuiasosopo – who later came out as a transgender woman – had fallen for the soccer star, but was afraid to reveal her true identity, prompting her to invent an entirely new online persona to court Te’o.

Te’o met the woman, who he believed to be a 22-year-old Stanford student named Lennay Kekua, online in late 2011.

Te’o has been warmly welcomed on his return to his alma mater since shocking hoax was revealed

Te’o, who had been a linebacker for Notre Dame at the time, was devastated when he thought his girlfriend Lennay Kekua was killed in a car accident

The two started messaging back and forth through social media before starting calling and texting, and the athlete soon fell for Kekua.

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However, it was eventually discovered that Kekua was actually Tuiasosopo, one of Te’o’s childhood friends who later admitted that she had fallen “deeply in love” with the sports star, so she created the account with photos of one of her high school classmates named Diane O’Meara.

When it came time for them to talk on the phone, she enlisted his cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, to talk to Te’o — he seduced the Notre Dame linebacker into a series of intimate phone conversations, which reportedly had their relationship. strengthened, despite the pair never meeting in person.

In the Netflix documentary Untold: The Girl Who Didn’t Exist, Tuiasosopo recalled that she “made the fictional character” and was afraid to reveal her true identity after falling for the linebacker

She created a whole backstory for Kekua, telling Te’o that she had been in a horrific car accident and discovered she was suffering from leukemia during her recovery.

Her tragic story soon stole Te’o’s heart. And in September 2012, about nine months into their relationship, Te’o was forced to believe that Kekua had died of cancer.

He told the crowd during a football game at Notre Dame on Sept. 12 that he had suffered the loss of his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day — and was branded a hero for continuing to play despite mourning their deaths.

However, after receiving an anonymous tip about this, Dead spin reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey began to question Kekua’s real identity, publishing a comprehensive article in January 2013 revealing that she was, in fact, not a real person.

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It was later revealed that Kekua was really Tuiasosopo, and the shocking revelation quickly engulfed the nation.

Te’o has since moved on with the saga and is married to Jovi Nicole, with whom he shares a daughter.

Te’o denied any involvement in the hoax, saying he initially thought Kekua was dead