Manti Te’o says he was not part of dead girlfriend hoax in first interview since news broke

By Daniel Levine,

Notre Dame star Manti Te’o has spoken for the first time since Deadspin revealed that his girlfriend and her death was all part of a hoax. Te’o stands by his statement earlier this week, saying that he was the victim and had no part in the hoax.

The defensive star spoke to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap Friday night. He admitted that he “tailored” some facts to let the media believe that he had met her in person, but that was it.

“No. Never,” Te’o said during the interview. “I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this.”

Deadspin’s investigation found that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was involved in the creation of “Lennay Kekua.” Te’o told ESPN that he wasn’t truly convinced that Kekua wasn’t real until Wednesday.

He says he spoke to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday and that he also received Twitter direct messages. “Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” he said. “I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one.”

Te’o says that he also lied to his parents about the girlfriend. He had tried to meet her several times, but whoever he was speaking to would call off the meeting at the last moment.

They had started talking during his freshman year, but Te’o explained, “My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship...There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end.” The relationship grew serious in mid-May, after she awoke from a coma.

Then, on Sept. 12, the same day that his grandmother died, she called him. After the call, he was called again to be told that Kekua died of leukemia.

After that, Te’o told the media the story over and over again, referring to Kekua’s death as late as December. However, after Notre Dame lost the BCS Championship earlier this month, he didn’t reference her.

“I hope he learns,” Te’o said about Tuiasosopo. “I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.”

As for himself, he told ESPN that he’ll be “OK.” He is currently preparing for the NFL draft and could be a high draft pick.

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