Manti Te'o Denies Having Part in Girlfriend Hoax
Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o vehemently denied that he played a part in a hoax involving a person whom he considered a girlfriend, but admitted modifying his stories to make people think he met her before "she passed away".
"No. Never. I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o said in an exclusive interview with ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap.
"I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude," he added.
Te'o told Schaap that he didn't know for sure that "Lennay Kekua" never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called him and admitted he was behind the hoax.
The linebacker said he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where the latter admitted that he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te'o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.
"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o said. Asked who they are, he said: "I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."
Earlier, Deadspin.com reported that it could find no existing record of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's supposed girlfriend who apparently died of leukemia.
The Notre Dame linebacker also clarified that he did not make up the story to help boost his Heisman Trophy chances. He finished second to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," Te'o said. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."
During the interview, Te'o revealed that their relationship started when Kekua sent him a friend request on Facebook the winter of his freshman year at Notre Dame. The two then had intermittent contact over the phone.
"My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship," Te'o clarified. "There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end."
Te'o said their relationship escalated after Kekua told him her father had died.
He also admitted lying to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that the two had met.
Also, Te'o said he tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a "black box" and wasn't seen.
He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, in Los Angeles and in Hawaii but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
The linebacker also said that Kekua never asked for money during the plot, but she once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te'o did not provide his account number.
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