INDIANAPOLIS — Manti Te'o walked into a crowded room of reporters Saturday, took a breath and settled in for 15 minutes of NFL scouting combine history.
Again, the former Notre Dame linebacker explained how he had been duped into an Internet romance he had with a girlfriend he never met. He did his best to turn the page on an embarrassing chapter by talking football. This time, he even got to see it play out on live television 12 yards away — where three muted flat-screen monitors were in direct view of Te'o.
He answered every question with thoughtful deliberation and tried to provide clarity on a hoax that turned one of the nation's most inspirational college football players into the butt of national jokes.
"I cared for somebody. That's what I was taught to do ever since I was young. Somebody needs help, you help them out," Te'o said.
Later he added: "People doubted me because I took a while to come out. From our point of view, we wanted to let everything come out first, and then let my side come out. The way we did it, I thought, worked best for me."
Te'o's news conference was the most anticipated event of the NFL's second-biggest offseason weekend, which brought the makeshift media room inside Lucas Oil Stadium to a virtual standstill.
Te'o had only done a few one-on-one interviews since the hoax became public.
On Saturday all that changed as many of the 800 credentialed media members surrounded the podium in rows that went eight deep. Te'o wore a tie-died red-and-black workout shirt.
"It's pretty crazy," said Te'o, who has played most of his games on national television and was one of the most recognizable college players last season. "I've been in front of a few cameras before, but never as many as this."
Will the hoax hurt his draft position?
Former NFL executive Bill Polian has been adamant that it won't, and coaches and general managers seem to agree.
"Somebody that's not truthful, that's big, to me. I'm a big fan of the 'Judge Judy' show. And when you lie in Judge Judy's courtroom, it's over. Your credibility is completely lost. You have no chance of winning that case," San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. "I learned that from her. It's very powerful, and true. Because if somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they ever say after that?"