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Kelly addresses Te’o controversy

Andrew Owens | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Irish coach Brian Kelly publicly defended former linebacker Manti Te’o on Tuesday in the aftermath of the Jan. 16 report that revealed Lennay Kekua, Te’o’s purported girlfriend, to be a hoax.

Kelly said the timeline included in University President Fr. John Jenkins’ letter to University officials matched what he remembered.

“When I looked at it, that was all in line with my recollection of getting a phone call from Manti on [Dec.] 26 [when Te’o supposedly told Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco about the ordeal],” Kelly said. “Everything from there kind of followed the time line that had been set-up.

“So everything that [Te’o] told me, every little thing that’s come out of the past couple of weeks is what he told me. So I can only go on the information that he gave me versus what we’re seeing out there.”

Kelly said his initial concern was to figure out what had happened rather than worrying about when to release the information. He said he immediately forwarded the information to administrative officials.

“That was my first thought,” Kelly said. “Let’s find out what the heck is going on here. Because you get a phone call in the middle of the night, and the first thing is this young lady is not, in fact, dead. You don’t know what to think. So try to get dialogue and make sure that we begin to find out what happened here.

“As we went on in the process, our athletic director, Jack Swarbrick was, as you know, a center in it. And he was putting together all the pieces over a period of time. I don’t know that any of us were motivated by – we don’t want this to be a news story.  We wanted to find out what the facts were.”

Kelly added that he was focused on coaching the Irish in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama and was not involved in the decision on when to release the information.

Te’o, who struggled in the 42-14 loss, did not appear to be affected by the situation leading up to the game, Kelly said. He said he did not sense his captain played poorly because of the ordeal, but he added that only Te’o could answer that question.

“Manti’s a young man that continues to lead, and you don’t really see him – because, obviously, he went through a tough time during the year, and we didn’t really see anything there that would have set off an alarm that he was under so much pressure concerning the situation,” the third-year coach said. “I just didn’t see it as we practiced and leading into the game.”

Kelly said he thinks Te’o will be remembered as a “great leader on our football team on an undefeated team at Notre Dame” and considers Te’o to be one of the best teammates he has witnessed in his 22 years of coaching.

“He was just special to coach, and he did all the great things that I think great players have to do on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said. “And we’re going to continue to hold him in that type of esteem.”