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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Tuck on Te'o: 'A crazy, crazy, crazy thing'

By Ian Begley

Justin Tuck helped recruit Manti Te’o to Notre Dame. He says the disgraced former Irish linebacker is "one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in a football uniform."

So Tuck’s reaction to the news that Te’o’s girlfriend was an Internet hoax was one of utter shock.

"Crazy," Tuck said on Tuesday at a Garden of Dreams charity event at Madison Square Garden. "You want to reserve your judgment on anything until all the facts are out but it’s just a crazy, crazy, crazy thing."

Te'o asserts he was tricked into an online romance with a woman named Lennay Kekua and, until last week, did not understand he was being hoaxed into believing Kekua, a fake internet persona, was a real person.

Tuck didn’t want to offer any final judgments on Te’o’s ordeal because he'd "never been in a situation like that." He believes that Te'o did not have anything to do with the hoax and he was just "gullible" enough to be convinced that Kekua was real.

"Obviously for him, like he said, it’s an embarrassing thing. I know Te'o, I helped recruit him and I know that he’s one of the nicest guys I ever met in a football uniform. So I believe him when he says he doesn’t have anything do with it," Tuck said. "He was just that gullible. And I think he’s embarrassed with the fact that he’s just that gullible. That lets you know how nice of a guy he is and how genuinely real of a guy he is.

"Again, it’s just an unfortunate situation that somebody would try to take advantage of a situation like that and use a guy that has a good heart for whatever benefit they got out of that."

Tuck was at the Garden to promote the sale of six paintings by Garden photographer George Kalinsky to benefit the foundation. Kalinsky painted portraits of Tuck, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Knicks center Tyson Chandler, former Knick Walt "Clyde" Frazier, former Ranger Adam Graves and members of The Sopranos cast.