The Notre Dame linebacker became a Heisman Trophy finalist, and led his team to the national championship game. Te’o supposedly did so in the same year that he lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend in a span of six hours.
Now, it appears the story of his dead girlfriend may have been an elaborate lie.
According to Deadspin.com, the story of Teo’s girlfriend is a hoax. In a detailed investigation, the Web site asserts that while Teo’s grandmother, Annette Santiago, did die this past year, his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed.
Deadspin is reporting that the identity of Kekua was completely made up. Te’o had reportedly met her when she was a student at Stanford, but the school’s registrar’s office has no record of anyone by that name having ever enrolled. Pictures that were supposedly of Kekua on Twitter and Instagram were of a different woman.
The woman in the photos, who Deadspin called “Reba,” said she sent one of the pictures that had been posted to her old high school classmate, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Friends and family of Tuiasosopo told Deadspin that he, indeed, created Kekua’s existence.
Did Te’o know the whole time that Kekua wasn’t a real person? According to a statement released by Notre Dame, the linebacker was duped.
Shortly after Deadspin published the story, Notre Dame released a statement on the matter.
“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.”
The statement from university spokesman and assistant vice president Dennis Brown still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. If Te’o was the victim of a hoax, who was he talking to on the phone when “Kekua” was supposedly in the hospital?
The statement also doesn’t explain the story of how the two met. They reportedly met after Notre Dame played Stanford in a football game, but that couldn’t have happened since Kekua doesn’t appear to be a real person.
According to Deadspin, the two didn’t meet in 2009, like Te’o had said they did. Their first encounter came on Twitter, when Te’o tweeted “nice to meet you ma’am” at Kekua’s account.
Multiple news outlets were also tricked, in regards to the story of the supposed couple.
The Associated Press reported that Kekua’s funeral was held in Carson, Calif. A New York Times story referred to Te’o’s “girlfriend” as a “Stanford alumnus.” Sports Illustrated reported on Te’o’s phone conversations with Kekua, which may have been made up.
Te’o will have a lot to answer for in the coming days. The 21-year-old is projected to be selected in the first round in April’s NFL Draft.