Notre Dame's Manti Te'o claims to be victim of a hoax, but how could he have been deceived for so long?
Jay Gray and the WTMJ News team
Photo: Video by tmj4.com
It was a hoax. But who did it, and who is the victim?
Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o claims he's the victim of an elaborate hoax. Others have questions about how he could be deceived so long about a woman who doesn't exist.
Manti Te'o was an All-American, Heisman finalist who led an over-acheving Notre Dame team to the National Championship game. During a season where he reportedly fought through the tragic deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend, a story he shared with the nation and on ESPN.
“We were actually talking about my grandma,” Te’o said. “She was trying to console me. I was just out of it. The last thing she said to me was ‘I love you.’"
But it turns out that heart-wrenching plotline was a lie. The website Deadspin.com broke the story wednesday - Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was an Internet creation, she didn't really exist.
As the shocking story spread, Te'o released a written statement that said the two had never met in person, but had grown to love each other during a lengthy online relationship. He claims he was the "victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies."
Deadspin, and other outlets, have speculated that a family friend in Hawaii may be responsible for the hoax.
"He had previously gotten some other guys suckered into this fake relationship," said Tim Burke with Deadspin.
But there are growing questions about whether the football star and his family were also involved.
“It would take a pretty clueless guy to fall for this for that long,” said Burke.
But Notre Dame is standing behind the student-athlete. Officials immediately launched an independent investigation when Te'o told them about the hoax in late december.
“That nothing that I have learned has shaken my faith about Manti Te'o one iota,” said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame VP and Director of Athletics.
But analysts, and fans, are not so sure.
"Is there a possibility he got all caught up in this? Yes,” said Dan Patrick. “Did he love the attention?"
Questions that now force Te'o, a relentless linebacker who on game days wreaked havoc on opposing offenses, to prepare a game plan off the field, for what will be his most difficult defensive assignment.