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Manti Te'o Welcomed Back to Notre Dame in Emotional Ceremony Before Cal Game

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 17, 2022

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Manti Te'o returned to South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday ahead of Notre Dame's clash with California.

Notre Dame Football @NDFootball

Welcome home Manti <a href="https://t.co/0VypVtGoUh">pic.twitter.com/0VypVtGoUh</a>

Tyler Horka @tbhorka

Manti Te’o getting emotional. <a href="https://t.co/stNFgRJqFg">pic.twitter.com/stNFgRJqFg</a>

The 31-year-old had a legendary career with the Fighting Irish. He won the Maxwell Award and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a senior in 2012, when Notre Dame went unbeaten during the regular season and reached the national title game.

Te'o's return comes as Notre Dame is looking to rebound from an 0-2 start. With last week's 26-21 defeat to Marshall, Marcus Freeman became the first head coach in program history to lose his first three games in charge.

Te'o did what he could to rally the fans Saturday afternoon.

Kyle Kelly @ByKyleKelly

Former Irish LB Manti Te’o gave a speech at today’s The Victory March: <br><br>“It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon when everything is going right. <br><br>But who’s gonna jump off that wagon when it ain’t rolling right and start pushing with me? <br><br>“That’s why I’m here.” <a href="https://twitter.com/insideNDsports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@insideNDsports</a> <a href="https://t.co/xyOj0xtTWY">pic.twitter.com/xyOj0xtTWY</a>

"There is a reason we’re the Fighting Irish," he said to the crowd, per On3's Tyler Horka. "We’ll fight you anywhere. We’ll fight you in there, we’ll fight you on the road, we’ll fight you in the parking lot. Turf, snow, rain—it doesn’t matter. We’ll fight you for four quarters. Now we’re going to get the job done. Remember that language, boys. Stay fluent in it. Go Irish!"

As much as he did on the field, off-field drama ultimately cast a shadow over Te'o's college career.

Deadspin's Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey reported in January 2013 the woman Te'o thought he had been dating, Lennay Kekua, didn't exist and was part of an elaborate catfishing scheme. Kekua's "death," which came shortly after his grandmother died, had served as a source of inspiration across his senior year.

The revelation of Kekua's true form was the biggest story in sports at the time, and it has received renewed attention after it was the subject of focus in Netflix's Untold series.

After leaving Notre Dame, Te'o was a second-round pick of the then-San Diego Chargers in the 2013 NFL draft. He spent eight seasons in the league and appeared in 62 games.

The Hawai‘i native became a defensive captain for the Chargers, but his pro career never fully recovered after he tore his Achilles tendon in 2016.

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