Former Notre Dame and NFL linebacker Manti Te’o was honored ahead of the Fighting Irish’s Saturday matinee against Cal in his return to South Bend.
Te’o was visibly emotional and shed tears as nearly 80,000 in attendance gave him a standing ovation.
Te’o was in attendance for the first time since the Netflix documentary “Watch Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” came out in July. Te’o led the team in their pregame walk before giving a speech to the fans inside Notre Dame Stadium.
“It’s always good to be home,” Te’o said. “There’s no place like home. But I want to make this real clear. It’s not about me… It’s about this whole family.”
Te’o was a four-year standout at Notre Dame, helping lead the program to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game against Alabama. After a senior season in which he recorded 113 tackles and seven interceptions, Te’o was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
“I’d give everything except my wife and kids to come back and play here,” Te’o said.
Manti Te’o Receives Warm Welcome From Notre Dame Fans
For years, fans made jokes about Te’o’s personal life. Leading up to his senior season, he revealed that his girlfriend had passed away. Te’o had a relationship with the girl through social media. It became known to him later that season that the whole thing was a hoax. Te’o had gotten catfished.
Fans have come to have sympathy for Te’o — apologizing for the jokes of the past decade after watching the documentary. Te’o said he was overwhelmed by the positive response to the documentary.
“All the facts are out there and I’m happy with it because it’s factual,” Te’o said. “…Since Day 1, it’s been nothing but positive.”
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