Manti Te’o was the heart and soul of the 2012-13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team season as he led the Irish to an undefeated season before eventually falling to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
The linebacker had one of the greatest seasons for a defensive player in the history of college football as he ended the regular season as a Heisman Trophy finalists.
In addition to his plethora of accomplishments on the gridiron, Te’o captivated the nation as he had his excellent season under absolutely dire circumstances.
According to the Notre Dame star, Te’o was notified of both his grandmother and his girlfriend’s, Lennay Kekua, deaths within six hours this past September. Just days later, Te’o had one of the best games of his career against Michigan State, where he compiled 12 tackles in a 20-3 Irish victory in the midst of seemingly insurmountable tragedy.
Now, according to a Deadspin report written by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey, it looks as if Teo’s story of his dead girlfriend, who, according to the linebacker died of leukemia, is a hoax and that she does not even exist.
The Deadspin report details undisputable facts that although there are Social Security records in Nexis of Teo’s grandmother’s, Annette Santiago, death, there are no such records, nor obituaries or funeral announcements in Nexis and no mentions in Stanford’s student newspaper of Kekua’s death — where Teo’s girlfriend supposedly attended college.
In addition, background checks for the 22-year-old turn up nothing and Stanford’s registrar’s office has no record of Lennay Kekua ever being enrolled.
The evidence is as clear as day that Teo’s inspiring and heartwarming story is nothing but a complete fabrication.
As for Teo’s response to this report? In a statement Wednesday morning, he denied the allegations made by Deadspin and in essence called them false.
“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 athletic director Jack Swarbrick has steadfastly defended Te’o throughout this saga, and had this excerpt to say during a press conference Wednesday which in essence summarized Notre Dame’s opinion towards this issue.
“This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can’t fully understand, but had a certain cruelty at its core.”
Swarbrick believes that Te’o was tricked into believing that Kekua existed, however when I myself look at not only the aforementioned facts but the assertion that Kekua and Te’o “met” after Notre Dame faced off against Stanford on October 13 as well, I find Teo’s story to be just that — a story. A sophisticated and fabricated story on Te’o’s part, not the other way around as Swarbrick and Te’o say.
In the Wednesday press conference, Swarbrick said that Notre Dame has hired investigators to look into this matter.
No matter the amount of investigators Notre Dame hires, I believe that they will turn up with nothing.
Once again, the facts themselves reveal nothing on Lennay Kekua and that in my opinion proves that Te’o’s “girlfriend” story was in fact a hoax by the superstar linebacker.
Swarbrick had this press conference as a public relations move for Notre Dame and as a result, I discount this conference as a highly biased, pro-Notre Dame, and pro-Te’o event.
However, when the facts are analysed, they differ from what Swarbrick has to say and I believe that Te’o’s “girlfriend” story is nothing but an weird hoax.