(UPDATE) Manti Te’o: College football star’s inspirational story a hoax

Mani Te'o

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was arguably the biggest name in college football this past season as the Fighting Irish made a remarkable run to the National Championship game.

The 22-year-old Mormon was a Heisman trophy candidate and his inspirational story gained steam throughout the fall. As dozens of media outlets told it, including Sports Illustrated, Te’o learned of the death of his grandmother and girlfriend in a span of six hours this past September.

Te’o’s grandmother did, in fact, pass away. However it turns out his girlfriend never existed at all, according to a scathing report by Deadspin.com Wednesday.

One source in the story said that he was “80 percent sure” Te’o was “in on it” and that he had helped stir the pot regarding the death of a fictional person. 

Click here for the full report

Te’o released the following statement Wednesday night:

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

Notre Dame also issued a statement on their Facebook page Wednesday regarding the situation:

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.

Dennis Brown
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President


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