Stories of Faith

You’ll love this former NFL athlete’s unabashed commitment to fatherhood and faith

Manti Te'o and his son
Screenshot from YouTube

As a 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist, Manti Te’o had one of the most decorated college football careers in National Collegiate Athletic Association history. While he was widely recognized for his athletic accomplishments, Manti’s name rose to even more prominence when he became the victim of a high-profile catfishing incident that same year. His name came up in the media again when, more recently, he had the chance to share his side of the story in a Netflix documentary series. Throughout it all, Manti spoke openly about how his faith helped him forgive.

Life has moved forward for Manti: He currently owns two businesses, speaks frequently at events and on podcasts, and has over 370K followers on Instagram. But Manti says that his family is his top priority. In 2020, he married his wife, Jovi Nicole Te’o, and they currently have a young daughter and son.

On a recent episode of the All In podcast, Manti shared:

“[Being a father] is the responsibility that I cherish the most, and I’m grateful that Heavenly Father saw me worthy to care for these two angels that I have.

“I’m grateful for my wife because she’s the one that [brought] them into this world, … and she’s an amazing mother. She’s an amazing partner.”

Manti also appreciates how fatherhood has allowed him to see himself through God’s eyes more clearly and build trust in the divine purpose for trials. For example, when his son was first learning to walk, Manti says it was difficult to watch him fall and not intervene in the learning process:

“[My son] would fall down, [and] I would say, ‘Come on. You can do it.’ … And I would just be motioning in front of him. …

“And oftentimes, when I’m doing these things with my children, I can just picture Heavenly Father [saying], ‘Manti, you can do it. Keep coming. You’re going to fall. It may hurt sometimes, but I’m right here with you. ...

‘I can’t save you right now, Manti, because it’s going to rob you of all the beautiful lessons, and it’s going to rob you of becoming the man that I need you to become. But I’m right here with you, cheering you on, believing in you.’”

This idea has given Manti a deeper feeling of gratitude for Heavenly Father’s love and perspective in allowing Christ to suffer for us.

“Imagine how it was for Heavenly Father to watch His Only Begotten go through what He went through, knowing that He had the ability to stop it all,” Manti says. “For us as parents, we get to experience, in our own little ways, those types of scenarios and situations.”

Similarly, Manti believes that God allowed him to experience the painful catfishing situation for a reason. In an Instagram post for the Church, he wrote:

“I know when Heavenly Father is seeing us go through hard times, I’m sure He wants to intervene and save us. But He loves us perfectly and He knows that if He saves us, we will not learn the lessons that will help mold us into the best version of ourselves.”

Hear more from Manti on the full episode of the All In podcast, available in the player below and on all of your favorite streaming platforms.

▶You may also like: Former NFL and Notre Dame star shares how he found hope after public humiliation and depression

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