In the above video, Notre Dame’s linebacker and leader Manti Te’o gives us an emotional interview following Notre Dame’s September 15th win over Michigan State. ESPN’s Heather Cox spoke with Te’o about the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend that week leading up to the game. Te’o was thankful for the support of his family, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s family.
And then for the rest of the season Te’o went on to have a remarkable season. A season in which he led a defense that allowed the lowest amount of points per game in the nation. A season in which Notre Dame went undefeated and reached the national championship game, for the first time in close to 30 years. A season in which he finished 2nd in the Heisman trophy race, a race where many thought he actually had a chance to be the first true defender ever to take home the award, an award that ultimately went to Johnny Football of Texas A&M.
Many casual observers of Notre Dame’s football program attributed their turn around this season to their star linebacker, Manti Te’o, and people including myself really embraced the heartfelt story of Te’o not only losing his grandma, but the unfortunate loss of his girlfriend as well. It’s one thing to lose a grandparent who’s lived their life. It’s another to lose a young adult in their late teens to early 20′s, who hasn’t lived theirs. And I think the nation really embraced this story as a result, and held Te’o in such high regard because of all the things he was accomplishing ad mist his own personal tragedies.
He may have lost the Heisman, but Te’o cleaned up with almost every other individual award that was available to him. He’s also projected to go in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.
His Notre Dame Fighting Irish may have just lost the National Championship to Alabama, but Te’o was winning far above and beyond, both on the field and off, what anyone had envisioned at the start of the season. And the story of him losing his girlfriend did help him gain additional followers and publicity that he otherwise may not have had. Life was good.
And then this report came out today from Deadspin, which quickly turned this feel good story into one of most sickest lies that you may ever hear…ever.
You know that girlfriend that Manti Te’o had, that die? You know, the girlfriend who’s family was helping him get through a rough time in his life? The girlfriend who we all hear him talking about in the above clip, right after Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan State?
She never died. In fact, she never even existed!
How sick is that?
Some quick background on the life and death of Manti Te’o’s non existent girlfriend:
- Te’o was a Heisman Trophy finalist who led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season.
- On September 12, news broke that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, passed away from leukemia. The story became national news three days later after Te’o starred in an Irish victory and said Kekua encouraged him to play.
- Kekua’s funeral took place on September 22, with Te’o not in attendance and with the above message displayed across television screens, supposedly proving that this was in accordance with his late girlfriend’s wishes.
- But now Deadspin has come out with an elaborate article that alleges there is no record anywhere of Kekua’s death: no obituary, no funeral announcement, no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.
Moreover, there is no record of her life.
University records do not show anyone named Lennay Kekua enrolled at Stanford; there is no record of her birth and, in perhaps the most confusing and troubling report, the photo above is reportedly NOT of Kekua.
Deadspin claims it got in touch with a woman from Torrance, California who, upon being shown the image, replied over the phone:
“That is a picture of me from my Facebook account.”
The article goes on to explain why Te’o likely played a role in this hoax. Deadspin says it has reached out to the athlete for comment, but is yet to get in touch with him.
It’s certainly one of the more unusual stories we’ve come across in recent memory, considering the elaborate conspiracy that would be at work here by one of college football’s most respected players… if it is proven to be true, of course.
We’ll update this post as more news breaks.
Update: Notre Dame has released a statement saying coaches were informed that Te’o “had been the victim of what appeared to be a hoax.” Accordingly, “the proper authorities” are investigating a “very cruel deception.” Full statement below.
“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.”
And here’s another video that shows him not only mentioning his dead girlfriend again, but the team even gave his “girlfriend” the game ball after their Michigan State victory. The more information that keeps leaking out about this, the more the stomach turns. What do you guys think? Will he be able to eventually move on from this or will this forever follow him and thus possibly hurt his draft stock?