Manti Te'o interview highlights
ESPN.com
January 20, 2013
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The following is an edited transcript of Jeremy Schaap's interview with Manti Te'o.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was your reaction when you saw the story came out on Wednesday?
MANTI TE'O: Avoid every piece of technology, don't listen to anything, don't turn the TV on, don't go on Twitter, don't go on Facebook, and that kind of got -- I got information from my friends, and they were telling me what people were saying about me and stuff.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You didn't read the story?
MANTI TE'O: No, I haven't.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You shut yourself down?
MANTI TE'O: Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But people are telling you what's out there?
MANTI TE'O: They're telling me, you know, generally what's out there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How has this affected your family?
MANTI TE'O: The hardest thing for me is to know that it's not my first name I care about, it's my last name. And to see that being tossed around, because there's a lot of people who carry the same last name as me.
And just to hear from my peers what people are saying about me and about my family and just the trouble that my family's going through is the hardest part for me to swallow.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It must seem surreal? I mean, it's just 10 days ago you were playing in the national championship game. You were on top of the world and now you're at the center of this maelstrom.
MANTI TE'O: Things happen. And good things happen and bad things happen. And I'm a person -- I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What's the reason here?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know yet.
How he met Kekua MANTI TE'O: It was Facebook -- she friend requested me on Facebook the winter of my freshman year at Notre Dame. And I introduced myself through message via Facebook. I just -- simple, I'm Manti. I saw you friend requested me, feel free to talk. Just simple, general introductions. And we just got to know each other just as acquaintances. It was nothing big, nothing spectacular, nothing greater than that.
And what people don't realize is it ended. My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship. There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end. She would go her way and I would go my way. And then months would go by and out of the blue she'd call me or she'd text me say: How are you doing? And we'd talk for a period of time again. And she would leave to Europe. And all of a sudden things would stop again. And I would go my way again and she would go her way. And kind of could see --
JEREMY SCHAAP: Until...
MANTI TE'O: Until it was my junior year. We were about to play Purdue at Purdue. And she called me at the hotel. And it was just casual. She just called me said: "Hey, it's me Lennay." I said: "How are you doing?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Had you spoken before or was it only Facebook before?
MANTI TE'O: No, we spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends. And then she contacted me that Purdue game and she just said "Hey, how are you doing? I'm going through some hard times with my boyfriend" -- at the time she had a boyfriend at the time -- "and just want you to be there for me, just be my friend." I said, "Sure, I'll be here for you."
And eventually we just kept talking and kept talking and kept talking. Everything kind of changed a little when her dad passed away. She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was just being that shoulder to cry on. And I kind of just naturally cared for the person.
And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet. I was trying to get to know her and get to know a whole bunch of other people. And for that period of time we talked and talked and got to know each other better and better and better. And everything changed April 28th. I got a phone call from her brother Noa (Kainoa) that she had got in the car accident.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Had you ever heard from him before?
MANTI TE'O: During that period of time from -- yeah, from Purdue, from when her dad passed away until April 28th, she took a trip to New Zealand. And while she was in New Zealand, she always told me about her brother Noa, that was her twin brother, and that he was with her and she said, "Hey, Noa's here; he wants to say hi." He introduced himself to me. He said, "What's up man, I'm Noa." That was the only communication with Noa until April 28th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's fascinating to me, I don't want to get you off track here. But you still talk about her as if she is real. But you say she, I mean that's just you're so accustomed to it, I guess.
MANTI TE'O: Well, in my mind I still don't have answers. I'm still wondering what's going on, what happened.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So April 28th, her brother, someone purporting to be her brother called you and said …
MANTI TE'O: "Bro call me back, Lennay got in a car accident. Need to you call me back." So I did. I eventually found out that she was in a coma and she was in a coma for quite some time, a couple of weeks. And I would talk to -- I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through Kainoa, her brother, and he used her phone. And he would put me supposedly right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going. And she would be breathing. And she would quick -- they said every time I was on the phone, they would tell me the nurse noticed that whoever was on the phone with her, she must have recognized the voice because she would start breathing quicker and I could hear on the phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: They put a nurse, somebody saying they were a nurse on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: Yes. I didn't talk to the nurse. They were telling me "the nurse."
JEREMY SCHAAP: OK.
MANTI TE'O: So they were saying -- they were telling me, "Bro, she recognized your voice. We know she's there. We know she can hear you." She would quicken her [breath]. And I heard it on the phone. They would do it to me. And so that was my communication while she was in a coma.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why at that time did you not go see her?
MANTI TE'O: It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school. I was finishing up my year and I was going home. It was towards the end of my junior year. End of my junior year, and I was about to go home. When I decided to go home, the day that I decided to -- the day I left to go home -- they called me and said that that was the same day that they were going to pull the plug. And so it intensifies the whole thing. I'm on the plane. I figured they're about to pull the plug on someone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: At this point, how would you describe the depth of your relationship with her?
MANTI TE'O: It naturally kind of just took a whole different level.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But I mean before this, before the car crash.
MANTI TE'O: Before the car crash, it was -- we were talking. I...
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