Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 6/11/13
SAN DIEGO, Calif. Manti Teo was relaxed and ready to take on the media in a nearly 20-minute session after the San Diego Chargers first minicamp workout Monday. It was the longest the team had let the reporters question him. When were out on the football field, nothing else matters, he said. All my teammates care about is that number 50 is working his butt off. That hasnt been difficult at all. Looking at Te'o standing at a podium answering questions from reporters, youd never even suspect that the rookie linebacker might be part of one of the biggest American hoaxes since author Clifford Irving manufactured the life story of Howard Hughes. As reported by DEADSPIN, the 22-year-old from Notre Dame has been accused by numerous people of inventing a relationship with Lennay Kekua, who then allegedly died from leukemia just prior Notre Dames the national championship game loss to Alabama. Teo finally came clean after the story broke, admitting hed carried on a romance by phone with someone he was convinced was a woman. She was the love of his life, he said many times. She almost ruined him, too. Turns out Lennay was actually an acquaintance named Ronald Tuiasosopo, a member the famous athletic family, who claimed that Teo conceived the idea of perpetuating the hoax in order the keep Teos alleged homosexuality from becoming public. Manti denied it, saying he believed he was talking to an actual woman and that hed fallen in love. He also fell on the draft board, going from a seemingly sure first round pick to a second rounder taken by San Diego at No. 38. And there was a bizarre scene recently in Hollywood, as MAXIM magazine named Lennay as one of the 100 hottest women in the world. At the party to unveil the issue, guess who was there? Yep, Teo and some of his buddies. When asked if he was trying to show that he had put the past behind him and was ready to move on, he said it wasnt. It was more of me being a 22-year-old being invited to an event and going to check it out, Manti said. My friends and I went up there and had a good time. Something that has probably been in short supply since the hoax was brought into the public consciousness and the bad performances in the bowl game and combine. Despite all of that, Teo is a player new head coach Mike McCoy is counting on to help get the Chargers back into the playoffs. Hes done a great job of learning the system and thats very important, said McCoy, who replaces Norv Turner. He also is getting the opportunity to go up against Antonio Gates, which is tough to do and well see how much he learns between now and the opener. McCoy said that despite his slow numbers at the combine, they werent worried about taking a shot on Teo, who nearly won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Some of the greatest players in the history of the games havent had great times in the 40 (yard dash), so what we did was look at the film (of his career). The film doesnt lie. The Chargers are hoping that Manti doesnt lie either, as theyre counting on him being a three-down linebacker for the team in his first season. The last thing they need is distractions concerning anything else that may pop up from the fake girlfriend fallout. Teo assures that it wont. We have a saying in the defensive room: Keep the main thing the main thing. Im here to play football and be the best Charger I can, and Im not going to let anything get in the way of that.
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