Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o says he knew Aaron Lynch was struggling being away from home but didn't realize it was bad enough for Lynch to decide to leave the Irish football team and transfer.
Te'o spoke about Lynch's departure for the first time on Saturday and defended the sophomore defensive end, who he called a brother. Te'o hasn't liked the way some have treated Lynch since the freshman All-American decided to leave.
"I cared about Aaron the kid not the player," an emotional Te'o explained. "Everyone else cares what he does on the field and it's obvious because the poor kid is getting heat. That's not fair. That's not fair for a 19-year-old to be hounded by people online on his facebook and stuff like that--that's not fair."
"As an older brother I look at him and say don't read that stuff. You do what you have to do and know that your family here at Notre Dame will always love you."
Te'o says he believes Lynch will be ultra successful no matter where he ends up. He understands the burden Lynch has been under being torn between being here in South Bend and being away from home in Florida. Te'o, from Hawaii, remembers those struggles greatly from his early years at Notre Dame.
"When i was young, there were many times after practice where I said I didn't want to be here," Te'o admitted. "It's growing process. You have to mature. It's hard. It's hard no matter where you go-whether you are at Notre Dame or USC, you are away from home."
"For an 18 or 19-year-old, not to be able to come home and see your mom and dad and your siblings and have a home cook meal waiting for you, and coming here--you finish practice, then you are like 'what you going to eat? Where am I going to go? Do I have to wash my clothes? Do I have to wash the dishes? It's a culture shock."
Te'o says there were those days. Of course for Manti he was able to push passed all of that. Last year, he had the opportunity to leave Notre Dame for the NFL--instead he decided to return for his senior season because he loves being here so much.
"That's one thing I wanted my little brother (Lynch) to experience. I wanted him to reap the benefits of sticking it out and being here at Notre Dame."