It was a story that was almost too unbelievable to be true. In so many different ways.
Mere days after suffering defeat along with his Notre Dame teammates in the BCS National Championship Game against mighty Alabama, star Irish linebacker Manti Te'o was thrust into the national spotlight after it was revealed, via a Deadspin.com report, that the girlfriend he had spoken about so often during the 2012-2013 season--one that, it was said, died of leukemia in the midst of Notre Dame's incredible season--did not actually exist. As the Deadspin report approved, and as Te'o himself later admitted, Lennay Kekua was never in a car accident, as he said earlier, and Lennay Kekua never battled and died from leukemia, because as it turns out, there was no Lennay Kekua. She was merely a figment of somebody's imagation. And, according to Te'o, he was duped by it all.
Both Te'o and Ntore Dame say the linebacker was the victim of a cruel hoax--one in which he was led to believe in the existence of and eventually fall in love with a fictional woman created by pranksters via the Internet. Though many questioned the viability of that story, Te'o has insisted he had no involvement in creating Kekua.
The story broke in mid-January of 2013 and quickly became the hottest sports story in the country--eclipsing even Lance Armstrong's long-awaited admission that he doped, and lied about doping, en route to enormous success in cycling. In the days the followed the Deadpsin report, both Te'o and numerous others spoke about the scandal. Some of the most interesting, important and, yes, bizarre statements and revelations are collected here.
Manti Te'o Statement (Jan. 16, 2012)
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.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, Statement via Press Conference (Jan. 16, 2012)
Manti was the victim of that hoax. Manti is the victim of that hoax, and he will carry that with him for a while. In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help that, as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti and roped him more and more into the trap. He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help in engaging fully.
Finally and reflective of that, I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota. The same great young man, great student, and great athlete that we have been so proud to have be a member of our family is the same guy tonight, unchanged in any way, except for, as he indicated in a statement in his release, the embarrassment associated with having been a victim in this case.
Manti Te'o, to ESPN.com's Jeremy Schap (Via an interview on Jan. 20)
To be honest -- to be honest with you, I thought it was natural. It seemed natural. It seemed like, even though I just met her, she knew a lot about me already. No red flags popped up. Initially when I started to talk to her, obviously, I didn't see her yet, so I asked other people who knew of her and who had history with her, "Is this girl real?" And all of them said, "Yeah, she's real." So that kind of gave me confidence, that, yeah, I'm fine.
Manti Te'o, to Katie Couric (Via an interview set to air on Jan. 24, when pressed as to why he didn't reveal the truth about his girlfriend after he learned he was the victim of a hoax)
Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12. Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive, and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?