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Who is Manti Te’o, the former NFL player from Netflix’s ‘UNTOLD’? Where is he now?

The pain of being catfished in front of the entire world has followed Manti Te’o for nearly a decade, but he is finally finding himself in a good place

Update:
The pain of being catfished in front of the entire world has followed Manti Te’o for nearly a decade, but he is finally finding himself in a good place
DONALD MIRALLEAFP

Back in 2013 when the news broke that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had a relationship with a girl who didn’t exist, he probably thought that it couldn’t get worse. And in many ways he was right. The catfishing that he was victim of derailed his career and is now the dominant thought when you hear his name.

Netflix has made a new two-part documentary “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” about the saga and its aftermath, told, somewhat surprisingly, from the point of view of Ronaiah ‘Naya’ Tuiasosopo, the trans woman who perpetuated the hoax.

Although beaten out by Johnny Manziel, Te’o was a highly touted linebacker who was tipped to be the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson in 1997. Highly regarded in the NFL draft, he had a pedestrian career and wound up playing four years for the San Diego Chargers, then bouncing to New Orleans for two seasons and one in Chicago, he is currently a free agent.

During his time in Chicago, he managed to marry a girl who does in fact exist, his wife Jovi Nicole, who is an Instagram fitness personality. They welcomed their first child, a daughter named Hiro, in August 2021.

The fact that Tuiasosopo is transgender was unknown to the participants of the Netflix film, including Te’o, during the filming of the documentary. Once the news broke, the media was awash with jokes and jibes directed Te’o’s way.

What should have been a blockbuster NFL career by a player who had every tool to make a real splash in the game, was turned by a confused Samoan fraudster into a lackluster and forgettable few years, with the hoax taking a terrible toll on his career. Te’o reveals, “I played free, and I played fast, and I played physical. And that was what made me great. Now I go to the NFL, and I’m questioning everything. Every day was just trying to figure out how to get rid of this anxiety, this numbness, this tingling. I’m trying to figure out all these ways to reprogram myself.”

The catfishing experience remains a deep source of trauma for Te’o, but he says, “I’ll take all this crap. I’ll take all the jokes, I’ll take all the memes, so I can be an inspiration to the one who needs me to be.”

Netflix is perhaps more kind to Tuiasosopo than she deserves, and less understanding of Te’o than they should have been. But in his marriage and fatherhood, there is hope that Manti can eventually forgive himself for the scam, and accept that what happened to him was not his fault.

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