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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Newsflash: Manti Te'o is still a hero

Heroes make the world go around. They give us inspiration and a reason to become better, to overcome obstacles. However, even in movies and books, heroes are human too, prone to the same flaws.

Notre Dame linebacker MantiTe'o finally opened up about the hoax played on him, leading him to believe he had an online girlfriend who later 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 LennayKekua 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 four 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 seven interceptions, the most by any Football Bowl Subdivision linebacker in more than 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.

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 the 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," Manti said. "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.


Joe Moody


Class of 1993

Jan. 21

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.