Notre Dame fans in attendance for Saturday’s game against California had a special moment as former linebacker Manti Teo returned to campus.
In his first public appearance at Notre Dame in over a decade, Te’o received a standing ovation at every stop as he looked to lend his support to his alma mater before the game.
The Fighting Irish honored Te’o, Heisman’s runner-up during his legendary first season in 2012, with a jumbotron screaming before the match and sending the crowd into a frenzy before kick-off.
Te’o’s emotional return to South Bend comes amid a growing amount of exposure in his story after Netflix released a documentary titled The friend who was not there, in August. The two-part film tells a history Notorious Catfishing Trick Te’o got involved after it was revealed that his supposed girlfriend, “Lennay Kekua”, wasn’t actually around properly as he reached the top of his college career.
During a conversation with reporters on Saturday, Te’o, who was interviewed and featured prominently in the documentary, spoke about the positive response he’s received since the film premiered.
“All the facts are there and I am happy with them because they are realistic. … From day one, it has been nothing but positive,” he said, for every Associated Press.
While some fans may choose to remember the feint as the bulk of his journey, Irish diehard fans will forever remember Teo for his persistence and dominance on the court. Before the game, the beloved linebacker spent some time embracing the community he still calls home, and even gave a rousing speech after attending mass with the squad.
Teo also attended mass with the team before walking with them to the stadium, where he stopped briefly with coach Marcus Freeman to address the crowd.
“It’s always good to be at home, man. There’s no place like home,” Teo said in a video he shared. Tyler Hurka in On3. “But I want to make it real: This isn’t about me, this isn’t about one person, this is about this whole family. It’s about this whole family. If you wanna go fast, go alone, if you wanna go far, go together. …and this team needs all of us.”
With Te’o’s words echoing across campus, the Fighting Irish are hoping to turn that energy into a turnaround early in the season after losing their first two games by 16 points.
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