Former college football star Manti Te’o recently opened up about how his faith helped him navigate life after becoming the victim of a catfishing scandal.

Te’o, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a guest on the “All In” podcast two weeks ago and told host Morgan Pearson that his understanding of God and how he works has evolved into a unique perspective as he’s gotten older.

“I think sometimes we get it a little mixed up that when good things happen, it’s from Heavenly Father, and when bad things happen, it isn’t (from God),” he said. “One of the things about my testimony is, good and bad things come from Heavenly Father. You know, if he wants me to be better, if he wants me to improve in certain aspects in my life, he’ll send me a problem to figure out, and often times, that problem is things that I don’t enjoy and things that we’ll categorize as bad.”

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How Manti Te’o’s faith made him a good football player and leader

During his football career, Te’o played middle linebacker, a position that requires leadership capabilities. He turned to his faith for an example of how to be a good leader on the football field.

“The greatest leaders in my opinion are the greatest servants. They’re the guys that serve the men and women around them in the capacity where it kind of elevates them. The greatest attribute of a leader is their ability to bring the best out of those around them. If you look at the gospel, if you look at the Savior, he probably was the greatest example of that for people to see their maximum potential and to live up to that potential,” he said.

How faith helped Manti Te’o decide to go to Notre Dame

Te’o didn’t want to go to the University of Notre Dame. He had been a USC guy his entire life, and that was his plan until he prayed about the decision the day before signing day. His most trusted confidants at the time helped push Te’o to accept the answer he thinks God was trying to send him.

One such mentor told him if he went to USC, he’d the join the likes of Troy Polamalu and Junior Seau and be the next great Polynesian player, but if he went to Notre Dame, “he’d be the only Manti Te’o.” That phrase struck Te’o like a lightning bolt, he said.

“You look at my life, you look at how everything has happened, it’s another testimony of having faith in Heavenly Father and his plan for you, no matter what it looks like,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you trust the man who knows the end from the beginning? He knows everything, so why would you not trust him.”

That trust and knowledge didn’t make the winters in North Bend, Indiana, any warmer, Te’o admitted, but it kept him grounded. He felt he was able to grow spiritually in college despite Notre Dame being a Catholic school.

“I didn’t feel him next to me the whole time,” he said. “There were times where I felt he trusted me to figure things out.”

Te’o said he never would have guessed “in a million years” that his football career would end the way it did, but he’s grateful he chose Notre Dame and for everything that has come from that decision.

“There’s a purpose for it all. I wish it was on different terms,” he said with a laugh.

How Manti Te’o relies on faith to overcome adversity

When life gets hard, Te’o imagines his hardships as a personal walk with Jesus Christ through the Garden of Gethsemane, where he believes Christ felt every pain that Te’o has and will experience in life.

“You get to have a walk through Gethsemane with him,” he said. “It’s those walks through Gethsemane that I’m grateful for — that I got to experience it just a little bit.”

Te’o never played in the Super Bowl during his short NFL career, and his playing days are long over. But he believes he’s a winner when he is teammates with God.

“As long as I’m on his team, I’m gonna win the Super Bowl,” he said.

How faith has helped Manti Te’o forgive

In the wake of the catfishing scandal, the linebacker felt it took over his life and that his football accomplishments and accolades were now overshadowed. He has since relied on his faith to forgive the person who catfished him and the people who mocked him after the scandal.

“If Christ could (forgive) in one of the most excruciating of deaths,” he said. “Then why can’t I do that? What is my excuse?”