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Why didn’t Manti Te’o go to BYU?

A new Netflix documentary digs into Manti Te’o’s football career

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Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o looks over the BYU offense as BYU and Notre Dame play Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in South Bend. Notre Dame won 17-14.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Former Notre Dame and NFL linebacker Manti Te’o is back in the news this week after Netflix released a documentary on his catfishing saga. The film has brought renewed attention to his college career, which was followed closely by many BYU fans.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and highly rated high school player, Te’o was on BYU’s radar, and he even visited Provo before committing to Notre Dame.

But that visit was one among many; in the Netflix documentary, Te’o notes that he was recruited by almost 50 schools.

From the beginning, Te’o was most interested in the University of Southern California, the program he’d loved since he was a kid. He says in the documentary that he told his parents and friends he’d be playing for USC before asking God for assurance that doing so would be the right move.

“I told my family I was going to go to SC. My dad was like, ‘OK. That’s good. Make sure you pray about it.’ The next day, I’m sitting in class and I say, ‘Heavenly father, I want to go to SC. But if you want me to go somewhere else, help me.’”

Soon after offering that prayer, Te’o ran into a mentor and friend who’d helped guide him throughout his high school football career. Te’o told him he planned to commit to USC, but the man’s response stopped him in his tracks.

“He was like, ‘You’re going to go to SC, and you’re going to be the next great Polynesian football player. I just always thought you’d go to a place like Notre Dame and be the only Manti Te’o,’” Te’o recalled for Netflix.

Te’o said that he understood the man’s comment to be a message from God.

“I stood up. I walked out of the room and I knew. ... I knew that the Lord was trying to tell me something,” he said.

The Deseret News wrote about this prayer story in 2012, noting that turning down schools like USC and BYU weighed heavily on Te’o’s heart, even as he felt confident that Notre Dame was the right choice.

“It’s one of those things where you never know until a few years later if you made the right decision,” said Te’o’s high school coach Kale Ane, about Te’o saying no to BYU.

Te’o said at the time that part of the process of praying for guidance is being courageous enough to abide by the answer you receive.

“My dad always told me, the hardest thing when asking the Lord for advice is not necessarily getting on your knees and praying, but having the courage to follow through with the answer that you receive,” Te’o said in 2012, according to the Deseret News.