The Career Of Manti Te’o Was Catfished And The Shame Is On You | Netflix Documentary Shows How To Break A Football Player By Lying Well

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Manti Te’o deserves an apology from all of us. The current free agent NFL linebacker was on course to become a legend for the blue and gold of Notre Dame until he was schemed on by someone who catfished him to deal with their personal issues.

But the world crucified him for it, and now, his new Netflix documentary, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” exposes just how much he didn’t deserve the slander. A Mormon who left Hawaii to become a gamechanger for a very Catholic University of Notre Dame in a very white South Bend, Indiana, got derailed by a person grappling with their gender and sexuality.

In 2012, Te’o was a senior and was recording an amazing season at Notre Dame. The school that bleeds the ethos of Rudy Ruettiger and the subsequent movie “Rudy” loved a feel-good story, and Te’o became just that. After his grandmother, Annette Santiago, died in September of that year, that same day, approximately six hours later, he heard that his “girlfriend,” Lennay Kekua, had died after a battle with leukemia.

It led to a dynamic performance on the field, and he made national news when a reporter asked about the so-called “double tragedy” of his grandmother dying and girlfriend’s death. The Fighting Irish went 12-0 on the season, finishing with the best defense in the country, allowing 10.3 points per game. The story, Te’o’s emotional reactions, and his on-field successes reinvigorated Notre Dame to compete against Alabama. However, for a national championship, all began to come to a head in a losing fashion.

With a consensus All-American nod, eight national awards, and a Heisman trophy consideration, Te’o was a victim of the most fantastic catfishing story in sports history. The worst part was that the genuine authenticity of Te’o sold a story that he didn’t even know was happening to him.

Naya Tuiasosopo, formerly Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, created Lenny Kekua; try to say that three times fast. Tuiasosopo used images of an old classmate, Diane O’Meara, without her consent to make the fake persona and used social media to perpetrate the fraud. Te’o’s innate gullibility was so hard to believe that the world indicted him and felt that the scheme was hatched by the two jointly.

It was cosplay gone mad with Tuiasosopo as the wizard behind the curtain playing with Te’o’s life, and it almost affected his chances of going to the NFL, where the word “distraction” is a death sentence for a career. It was the ultimate real-life circumstance of how you only live long enough to see yourself become the villain in the media and popular opinion.

Next, speculation was that Te’o might be gay, and after going through the rumor mill and the press circuit to explain his side of the story, Te’o was looking to get into the league and away from the scandal. Unfortunately, it did affect him as he slid from the first round to the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and millions of dollars.

According to Te’o, at the NFL Combine, every scout asked him about the catfishing incident, not his abilities. Today, after playing for three teams from 2013-2021, the now-married-with-children football player cried and explained how the world abused him, and yet he still had faith and struggled to keep his resolve as a player in the NFL.

After being the butt of an everlasting joke, Manti Te’o finally told the whole story, and it shows how cruel the world of fast food media and public perception can be.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.