The story is a classic of the genre. It opens on February 4, 2009—with an event that is, in the world of college football, the biggest day of the year that doesn’t involve tackling. This is National Signing Day, when the nation’s top high-school players officially commit to their chosen colleges. Among the most publicized and coveted recruits of 2009 is our protagonist, Manti Te’o, an explosive linebacker from the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
That Te’o happens to be of Hawaiian-Samoan descent—and Mormon, to boot—burnishes his star appeal. One of the N.F.L.’s biggest stars, Troy Polamalu, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, comes from a long line of Samoans. Pacific Islanders routinely play at the University of Southern California (because of its proximity) and Utah’s Brigham Young University (because it’s Mormon). And one extended family of Samoans with a large presence in Hawaii—the Tuiasosopos—has produced a steady stream of collegiate and professional stars.
Te’o, being the country’s top linebacker recruit, is primed to sign with U.S.C., the country’s top program. Everyone agrees they’re the ideal match—right up until the minute Te’o faxes in his commitment letter.
To Notre Dame.