Te’o has released a statement calling the situation “incredibly embarrassing” and maintaining that he was the victim of a horrible lie.
According to ABC News reports, Manti Te’o may not have been involved in the “girlfriend hoax” at all. In fact, he was a victim himself, receiving phone calls, texts and letters before every game. He had contact with her family, including a twin brother, her parents and other siblings. The girlfriend, “Lennay Kekua” even kept in touch with Te’o’s friends, family, and even his teammates. One teammate even told ABC News it was not uncommon for Te’o to pass the phone around to his teammates when “Lennay” was on the line. “I talked to her,” He said. “I wasn’t suspicious.”
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference this week,
There are a remarkable number of characters involved. We don’t know how many people they represent. There are male and female characters, brothers, cousins, mother, and we don’t know if it’s two people playing multiple characters or multiple people. It goes to the sophistication of this, that there are all these sort of independent pieces that reinforce elements of the story all the way through.
Many are beginning to believe Te’o was as much a victim of a hoax as the rest of the nation. In an interview with Pete Thamel of “Sports Illustrated” from September, 23, Te’o described the level of involvement he had with “Lennay” saying they talked every single day. Te’o told Thamel:
I slept on the phone with her every single day. When she was going through chemo, she would have all these pains and the doctors were saying they were trying to give her medicine to make her sleep. She still couldn’t sleep. She would say, “Just call my boyfriend and have him on the phone with me, and I can sleep.” I slept on the phone with her every single night.
As more and more information emerges, it is becoming clear that not only was Te’o a victim of this hoax himself, but that it was highly elaborate, with many different characters and a complex plot line. His family was in contact with “Lennay” and her family, and even a friend from high school, Dalton Hilliard who now plays football for UCLA was often in touch with her. He said,
She was a very supportive, loving passionate individual. She was all about God and prayer and being able to have faith. Me and her never met in person. But I felt like this was a testament to who she was. She would still text and tweet me before my games.
Although Te’o has been keeping a low profile since the news of this hoax broke, it appears he was not the only person taken in by these lies. It is important to remember that, while we may not understand the entirety of the story, if what is coming out now is true, he is a young man who not only fell in love with and then lost a “girlfriend,” but he was lied to and betrayed on such a personal level many of us may not ever be able to understand.
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Falling for someone who was part of hoax is not as uncommon as you might think. Read a first person account, here: