INDIANAPOLIS --- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said NFL teams are asking him about the hoax involving his fictional girlfriend, but some only briefly inquire how he is handling the controversy. Others want to know more.
There has been speculation that Te'o was affected by the about-to-break story during the Fighting Irish's crushing loss to Alabama in the national championship game.
"I played hard, and so did my team," Te'o told a throng of hundreds of reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Saturday. It was his first interview since the scandal in a noncontrolled setting, where he had no say in who was asking the questions. "They executed better than we did." He said his play was not affected,
He said teams usually say "Just tell me the facts. They want to hear it from me." He said he views the interviews as a chance to "show them who you really are."
He said his analysis of the situation was that he was trying to help someone out -- alleged hoax perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- and got burned. He said he has not considered legal action against Tuiasosopo. He said his family has suffered enough; asked the toughest moment of the scandal, he said: "The toughest moment was a phone call that I got from my sister. She told me they had to sneak my family into their home, to avoid the people parked out in the yard ... Something I've always had a problem with is when I can't do something about it, when I can't help. To know that my family was it that situation because of actions that I committed was nothing but heartbreaking."
He said Tuiasosopo's family has suffered, as well.
He said he has learned that everyone "is somebody's son, somebody's daughter, somebody's mom. Whatever I do, I try to base what I do on that."
Te'o said he doesn't want to drag out the controversy; at the end of his session, he thanked reporters and said now he hopes he can concentrate on football.
He said he now feels sympathy for people caught up in controversies, feels we should "give somebody the benefit of the doubt. You never know what's going on."
"Everybody makes mistakes," he said.
Asked about how he thinks he will be received in an NFL locker room, Te'o said he doesn't worry about things he can't control. "Whatever team I go to, I'm just going to be me and work hard," he said. "Whatever happens happens."
He said the controversy "got overwhelming at times." He said it was hard "to see my last name everywhere."
Te'o said the lesson he has learned is "to keep your circle really small."
He said he brings to a team "somebody with a lot of heart who works hard."
Asked if he is dating anyone "in the real world" now, Te'o said he is not.