In an interview posted on ESPN late Friday night, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o admitted that while he exaggerated in saying that he’d met his non-existent girlfriend, “Lennay Kekua,” he was not in on the hoax.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” the Heisman finalist told ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap.
“I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, (I) met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”
Te’o denied creating the story to aid his campaign for a Heisman Trophy. “When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know,” he said during the 2.5 hour interview. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”
Te’o says he was unaware Kekua did not exist until reached Wednesday by an acquaintance, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who confessed he was behind the hoax.
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In the hours after Deadspin.com broke the news, college football fans tried to make sense of the bizarre tale. Notre Dame released a statement saying Te’o was a victim:
“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.”
In his own statement released Wednesday, Te’o said the discovery was painful and humiliating.
There is no video of the ESPN interview, but you’ll find all their coverage by following this link.