UPDATE: Manti Te’o's side of the story
In what has turned out to be one of the biggest dramatic stories that involve an athlete since Tiger’s Thanksgiving. Manti Te’o has now spoken about the hoax of his dead girlfriend, with which he says he was not involved.
Te’o participated in a 2.5 hour interview with ESPN. In that interview he states that he was no part of the hoax, but he did, however, “tailor” his stories as to make it appear that he had ”met her before she passed away.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo contacted Te’o last week through Twitter and told him he was the one behind Lennay Kekua along with two other persons. Te’o then followed up with a phone call to Tuiasosopo on Wednesday. Te’o said that he knows that one man and one woman are responsible but he doesn’t know who. He only knows that Tuiasosopo is one of them.
Wednesday is the day that the Deadspin article broke. Te’o says that he has not read the Deadspin article and does not plan to read any media coverage on the story.
While at the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Te’o said in an interview that he was not part of it. “When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know. They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”
In this interview, Te’o admitted to lying to his family that he had met Kekua. He had tried to meet with her on multiple occasions and she would cancel or send someone else to meet him.
“I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well. So 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,” Te’o said in response to why he lied.
The relationship began Te’o's freshman year but he says that it was not a four year long relationship. There were breaks where they would not talk to each other. That was until Kekua said that her father has passed away. Te’o said that he naturally became the shoulder for her to cry on and that is when things started to get more serious.
After that, on April 28 Te’o got news that Kekua had been in a car accident and was in a coma. He would call her and someone would put the phone by her so he could hear her breathing. Mid May Kekua had woken up and Te’o would call every day. That is when he said things began to get serious.
The interviewer asked Te’o why he never went to the hospital to see her. ”It never really crossed my mind. I don’t know. I was in school,” Te’o responded.
Te’o's parents then got involved with the girlfriend over the phone. ”had had lengthy conversations with her about her experiences about being a convert (to Mormonism), and what she thought and shared with Lennay things to look for and things that she should do,” Te’o said about his mother’s conversations with Kekua.
In late June or early July, Te’o found out that Kekua had leukemia. Then September 12, he found out his grandmother had passed. He spoke to Kekua on the phone that day and then he was told later that day that she had died from her leukemia.
Te’o did not go to the funeral because her family did not want him there and he himself did not want to go. ”They didn’t want — and I didn’t want myself — I didn’t want that to be the first time that I saw her was laying in a coffin,” he said about missing the funeral.
The most confusing part of this is what happened on December 6. Te’o received a call from Kekua’s number.
He said the conversation was this, “She said, ‘It’s Lennay,’” he said. “So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. ‘How could you do this to me?’ I ended that conversation by saying simply this: ‘You know what? Lennay, my Lennay, died on Sept. 12.’”
Te’o then, after Christmas, told his parents and Notre Dame about the situation and Notre Dame opened up an investigation. Te’o said there was some story he was told by the person on the phone about trying to hide from people involved with drugs but Te’o never fully believed it.
In response to a question about Tuiasosopo he said this, “I hope he learns, I hope he understands what he’s done. I don’t wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.”
There are still many questions to the story but that is Te’o's response and the story is beginning to unfold.
Jerry Schaap is the one who conducted the interview for ESPN and he shared his experience with the ESPN video crew, check it out.