Manti Te’o delivered a heart-warming speech at the Nissan Hall of Honor banquet Sunday night at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballrooms.
In his address to the audience and the 12 newest inductees, Te’o did not shy away from bringing up some of the unpleasant trials that life has thrown at him, including the time that he suffered as a victim of a 2013 Internet hoax and media circus.
“The things that I’m most proud of that I see are my scars,” he said. “Not my physical scars that you see, but the ones that I bear inside. The ones that are a result of the things that I’ve been through.
“The scar that I see two days after my birthday my junior year in college when my grandfather passed away — a man who was very influential in my life, a man I look up to, a man I’m named after. Just eight months after that, I see the scar I got when my grandmother passed away my senior year in college. And then I see the scar when I tore my Achilles my contract year with the San Diego Chargers — when my general manager and defensive coordinator said ‘Manti, all we need you to do as a defensive captain is play 16 games. That’s all we need of you. We’ll pay you, retire your mom, retire your dad, pay the expensive tuition at Punahou for your sisters. You’ll be able to live your life and provide for generations to come.’ And then I tore my Achilles in the third game of that season.
“Probably the scar that I’m most proud of that I see is the one I got in 2013 that I’m sure all of you are aware of. That scar was formed when life tried to break me … and when I see all those things and I see all the things that I’ve been through, I can’t help be proud and I can’t help but smile.”
Te’o also talked about a quote he read once that is applicable to his story:
“My scars tell the story. They are reminders of when life tried to break me but failed.”
Later, he told the athletes, “When the world walks out on you, because it will, just look around at who is still there and I promise you, the only people you will see (are your family and friends).
“When you make it, don’t forget to turn around and help the next generation out.”
He left them with words from his grandfather: “Be strong, be brave and never give up.”
Te’o, who was second to Johnny Manziel in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2012 as a Notre Dame senior linebacker, is entering his seventh NFL season as a free agent. He spent two years with the New Orleans Saints and, before that, four with the Chargers. He has 313 career tackles.