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"That’s Polynesian culture" - Manti Te'o blames his upbringing for getting easily catfished during college football career

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Manti Te'o was catfished into thinking he had an online girlfriend, which later turned out to be a hoax. During his college football days in 2013, Te'o claimed that he lost his grandmother and the person he believed was his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, on the same day.

Kekua infamously turned out to be someone who now goes by the name Naya Tuiasosopo. She was known as Ronaiah back when the catfishing happened.

We now know all about the hoax, which is simply astonishing, and the inevitable embarrassment that followed for the linebacker was enormous. The 31-year-old said that his upbringing perhaps played a part in the scandal.

“I’ll take all the crap. I’ll take all the jokes. I’ll take all the memes. So I can be an inspiration to the 1 person that needs me to be.” - Manti Te’oWe all owe him an apology 💙https://t.co/xLkt3VJACy

In a conversation with NBC Asian America, the 31-year-old said that one thing separating his culture from others is that they are very loving and that perhaps played a part in his love for Kekua.

Te'o said:

“One thing that really separates us, from what I’ve known since I was little, is that we’re very, very loving. We’re very, very inclusive. That’s Polynesian culture at its purest in my opinion.”

Te'o continued:

“Everybody doesn’t want to be alone. Everybody wants to have somebody that can go with them through whatever experience they’re going through.”

After finding out that his supposed girlfriend had passed away not long after his grandmother, he led Notre Dame to a huge upset win over Michigan State. It became a national story for the linebacker as he was playing through really trying circumstances.

At least there was a happy ending for Manti Te'o. ❤️ #UntoldNetflix #TheGirlfriendWhoDidntExist #Netflix https://t.co/UTSdMCzQhh

The linebacker's documentary, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” delved deep into the aftermath of the incident. In-depth interviews with Te'o as well as Tuiasosopo provide viewers with a look behind the curtain at what happened all those years ago.


Te'o and his NFL journey post-catfishing

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints
Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints

Taken in the second round by the then San Diego Chargers with pick 38 in 2013, the linebacker played 13 games in his rookie season. He finished with decent enough rookie numbers, recording 61 combined tackles.

Manti Te’o and his online connection dominated headlines in 2013.Now, for the first time, find out what really happened in UNTOLD: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist. Premiering tomorrow. https://t.co/yBAQNU3RrF

He stayed with the Chargers for four years before moving on to the New Orleans Saints in 2017 where he started 10 games. He was with the Saints for three years before moving once again, this time to the Chicago Bears in 2020 as a practice squad member. His contract with the Bears expired in January 2021 and he hasn't been signed since.

Being an NFL player is what most people should remember the linebacker for. Unfortunately, the infamous catfishing scandal is what springs to mind when Te'o's name is mentioned.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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