Shortly after his girlfriend Lenny Kekua succumbed to leukemia in September, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o made it known to a Detroit couple he had never met that he felt their pain.
Brian and Louise Smith lost their 12-year-old daughter, Bridget, to a brain tumor on Oct. 5. Before Bridget — a big Notre Dame football fan — passed, Te’o wrote an email to her parents thanks to a connection through a mutual friend.
“Obviously, going through what I’ve gone through, with my girlfriend passing away from cancer, that whole thing hit home for me,” Te’o told FOX Sports’ Greg Couch. “My whole thing was just to reach out and let them know I’m here.”
Brad and Louise read the letter to Bridget on the last day she was alive.
“We opened the letter that morning, and it was just a bright spot on the saddest day of our lives,” Louise said. “We read it to her; we shared with her what it said. They say hearing is the last thing to go. I don’t know. I believe she internalized it.”
Notre Dame officials didn’t even realize Te’o had written the letter. The gesture became public only after a friend of the Smiths contacted Couch following his Oct. 17 column on why Te’o should be the Heisman favorite.
When dealing with grief, some people turn inward. With his play and his actions since late September, Te’o has shown that he’s the exact opposite.