LAIE (Hawaii News Now) - News of the hoax that the University of Notre Dame says ensnared Manti Te'o spread quickly through the football star's hometown of Laie, with virtually everyone expressing shock and disbelief.
Te'o is a hero in Laie, and so the reports of the hoax hit particularly hard.
"Really shocked because we were watching him as he was being a candidate for the Heisman Trophy," said Nita Jane Carrington, who had been sick at home but heard the news when she went out for a bite to eat. "And of course we were rooting for him."
She was rooting for Te'o, like the hundreds who had gathered at a community potluck and viewing party at Laie Park for the Heisman awards ceremony just a month ago. On that day, his supporters wore t-shirts with his jersey number, 5.
One of the organizers of that event, who knows Te'o and his family, is undeterred in her support. "Manti is still somebody that is very special to us here in the community," said Laie resident Kela Miller. "We just know that Manti will tell the truth, and we know that his family feels very badly."
There were many people in the town who didn't want to go on camera who defended Te'o against reports that insinuated that he may have had a hand in the hoax. They firmly believe that people took advantage of Te'o's good nature.
"I don't think it's right," said resident Calvin Kanoa, who said Te'o is like a nephew to him. "I think something's wrong over there. And he's a good kid. He'd never do anything like that."
"He wouldn't," said Miller. "And it's just sad that we have people like that in the world today. I really believe that Manti really felt that his girlfriend died."
Others said that they wanted to wait and see what other details emerge, and to hear from Te'o himself, before saying anything. But the residents who did talk were still behind their hometown hero.
"We're still proud of him being from our local community," said Carrington.
"We know Manti. And we know that he wouldn't do that," said Miller. "But whatever comes out of this, we still love Manti from the bottom of our hearts."
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