Notre Dame Linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o's heartbreaking story about his girlfriend dying of leukemia six hours after his grandmother had died, turns out to be a hoax. Deadspin.com has the entire story and timeline.
Te’o won seven major awards, including the Bednarik Award for top defensive player, the Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award and became the first defensive player to win the Maxwell award since 1980. He was second in the Heisman voting to Texas A&M freshman Johnny Manziel.
The story of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who was supposedly in a terrible car wreck and eventually died of leukemia this season, seems to be made up entirely out of whole cloth. The girl never even existed. It appears to be made up as a way for Te’o to use the sympathy surrounding the events to create an image of himself as an inspirational player, increasing his exposure and his visibility. He made it a huge story during the week of the Notre Dame vs Michigan State game, saying his girlfriend told him he had to play no matter what, before she supposedly died. Te’o gave a rousing speech at a Notre Dame pep rally and played both that game and the next week in legendary fashion. And it all was a lie.
Notre Dame, however issued a statement, saying the hoax was actually carried out at Te’o's expense.
According to university spokesman Dennis Brown, “On December 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.”
Few are buying that story. The true story will eventually come out, and who knows what kind of damage it could do to Te’o's reputation and future career in the NFL, but it doesn’t seem any good can come from making up a story about a girlfriend, embellishing on her throughout the year in interviews and then killing her off for sympathy.
Te’o had his worst game of the year against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, which Alabama won easily 42-14.
UPDATE: Te’o Issues Statement
“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.”
UPDATE 2: @LennayKay Tweets Statement
The Twitter account @LennayKay, attributed to Manti Te’o's fake ex-girlfriend, and the one with which he tweeted conversations, has been inactive since November 6, 2012, until today, when a tweet from the account said a statement would be released today between 11 am and noon. At 2:31 pm Eastern the statement came.