Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Manti Te'o press conference draws media swarm at NFL Combine

Posted by: under Super Bowl Updated: February 23, 2013 - 2:41 PM

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o generated quite a media crush at the NFL Combine this afternoon, participating in his first press conference since word of the now infamous Lennay Kekua fake girlfriend hoax broke last month.

It was no surprise that Reporters and TV cameras swarmed around Podium C at Lucas Oil Stadium as Te’o held a q-and-a session that lasted 14 minutes, 35 seconds.

We’ll have much more on Te’o’s brief appearance and his overall draft status as our combine continues. For now, here is most of what he had to say during Saturday’s presser:

On what explanations he can provide as to how the whole hoax developed and affected him …

“About the incident, I’ve said all I needed to say about that. How I’m handling it going forward has been what I’m doing now. I’m focusing on the moment and focusing on football and the combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. So I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”

On how much he’s been asked about the hoax in interviews with NFL teams …

“Quite a few teams have asked me about it. Some go to certain lengths. Some just ask me, ‘Give me a brief overview of how it was.’ And then they get straight to business about football.”

On why he played poorly in the BCS title game against Alabama …

“Because I didn’t. That’s all on me. That’s something that, I played hard and so did my team. But Alabama had a great game plan. And so did we. It’s just they executed it better than we did.”

On whether the hoax was a distraction during the national championship game …

"No."

On whether any teams hadn’t asked him about the hoax …

"No. They’ve all asked me about it. Just, ‘Tell me the facts.’ They want to hear it from me. So I just want to tell them basically what happened."

On the summary he’s able to give teams when they ask …

“I cared for somebody. And that’s what I was taught to do. Ever since I was young. When somebody needs help. You help them out. Unfortunately it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”

On why he waited so long to speak up publicly after details of the hoax broke …

“It was just a whirlwind of stuff. For me, a 22-year-old, a 21-year-old at that time, you’re just trying to get your thoughts right. Everything’s just kind of chaos for a little bit. So you let that chaos down and wait until everybody’s willing to listen.”

On whether he understands the people who doubt his version of events because it took him so long to provide his version of the story …

“That I don’t know. People doubting because I took a while to come out? From our point of view, we wanted to let everything come out first and then have my side come out. So the way that we did it I felt worked best for me. And I’m just very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. Because I think it went over as smoothly as it could.”

On whether NFL people have indicated that this will impact his draft stock …

“No. Not really. They’ve told me that they all just want to hear it from me what the truth was. And they haven’t really said anything about it affecting me. Some guys we just talk briefly and I describe it for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and just getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be.”

On whether he worries about how he’ll be treated inside an NFL locker room …

“No. I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. And hopefully by doing the things I can control, I’ll have more favor in the other category. But whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me and work hard and just do my best to help the team win and whatever happens happens.”

On whether he’s been surprised by the media fascination in his saga …

“It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras. But not as many as this.”

On the initial tsunami of attention the controversy attracted …

“It got overwhelming at times. I think the hardest part, and I’ve said this, is just to see not necessarily my first name, but it’s my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, that stays here is your last name. So to see my last name everywhere and to know that I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and that was hard.”

On whether he’s prepared to deal with this heavy volume of media attention …

“Oh, yeah. For me, hopefully I’m just looking forward to getting ready and getting straight to football. I understand people have questions. But I think I’ve answered everything I could. And for me, I’d really like to talk about football.”

On what he tells team as a football player …

“I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and I’m somebody who works hard. Somebody who hates to lose. And I’ve always said I hate losing more than I love to win. And the reason I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. So it’s those times that I lose where that feeling will stick with me. And so for the teams I just told them you’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much but will do everything it takes to win.”

On whether he has any lingering regret about the controversy …

“I could have done some things different. I could have done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff. But throughout my experience my senior year, I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

On whether this has all been an embarrassing experience …

“Oh, definitely. Anybody to go through [this], it’s definitely embarrassing. You’re walking through a grocery store and you kind of like give people double takes to see if they’re staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. And I guess it’s part of the process, part of the journey. But you know what? It’s only going to make me stronger. And it definitely has.”

On whether he’s past the point of embarrassment now …

“Definitely. It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you.”

On whether he understands what NFL teams are looking for when they ask about the hoax …

“They want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody who you can’t trust. So, with everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you. And they’re trying to get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.”

On whether he has a hurdle to get over in the honesty department …

“It could be a hurdle. But it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I have to approach this. It’s been a great learning experience for me.”

On possibly being drafted by the Super Bowl champion Ravens as a replacement for Ray Lewis …

“Ray Lewis, I’ve grown up watching Ray Lewis. Just watching his intensity, his passion for the game, his love for the game, his work ethic. Everything in a linebacker that you want to be is in Ray Lewis from leadership qualities on. All that. He’ll be definitely missed in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole. But if I get to go to Baltimore, there will definitely be big shoes to fill. But an opportunity that I’ll be honored to have.”

On how he has changed from all that has happened …

“For me, I’ve learned, first to be honest in anything you do. And everything. From the big things to the small things. And to keep your circle very small. And to really understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. I think going off the season that my team and I had, there were a lot of people in our corner. And then when Jan. 16 happened, there was a lot of people in the other corner. So I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me and to just make sure that you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.”

On the toughest moment of the past few months …

“I think the toughest moment to be honest with you was a phone call that I got from my sister. She told me that she had to sneak my own family in their home. Because there were people parked out in their yard. And that had to be the hardest part. And for me, something that I’ve always had problems with is when I can’t do something about it. When I can’t help. So to know that my family was in this situation because of the actions that I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”

On the challenges he’ll face as a player at the next level …

“Obviously the game just gets even faster. It gets a lot more complex. But I think what I have to do as a player is remember why I’m playing this game, It’s still the same game I played when I was a little kid, on the streets. Same thing. The football is still the same shape. Obviously people are going to be professionals. This is where the best play. But as long as I don’t stray too far from who I am and what I believe in, I think the journey will be worth it.”

On moving past the hoax controversy as he transitions to the NFL …

“Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. And one of the positive things about what I went through is I’ve learned to empathize with those who are going through the same thing, those who are going through some hard times, who are getting attention that they don’t necessarily want. And it just taught me, from going through that, to always just give somebody the benefit of the doubt and just say, You never know. You never know what’s going on with a person.”

On whether he considered taking legal action the hoax perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo …

“No. I think that’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s no need. People camped out at my house. There’s people camped out at his house. So I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff. So I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Always try to forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. So I always try to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”

On his emotions when he got that phone call from his sister …

“It’s just why. Just why. It should never get that way. I think as people we have to realize that we’re all people. Somebody is somebody’s son. Somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? So through this whole experience, I’ve learned that. And since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think that’s somebody’s son, that’s somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mom or dad. And whatever I do, try to base whatever I do off that.”

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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