Former University of Notre Dame Linebacker is sweet talking his way out of lime-light
A little over three months ago, University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was the sweetheart of America: while warming our hearts off the field, Te’o was bruising ribs on the field with his stellar performances and a knack for finding the football at crucial moments of the game.
A potential Heisman Trophy winner, Te’o was looking to make history as the first strictly defensive player in NCAA Football history to take home the prestigious award.
And with the tragic passing of his late grandmother and long-time girlfriend Lennay Kekua during the regular season, Te’o was sure to have extra support from Heisman voters to secure his spot among the collegiate greats.
Te’o has been in the public eye dating back to his days in high school. A Butkus Award winner in his senior year, Manti has been fighting the proverbial devil on his shoulder since he was 17 years of age.
In 2009, Te’o enrolled at Notre Dame, where he quickly made a name for himself as a tenacious linebacker with great coverage skills, knowledge of the game, and the always important intangibles that a superstar athlete must have to make it to the next level.
All throughout his collegiate career, he remained drama free. Being the big man on campus, he had his pick of the litter when it came to females, but we heard of no dirty laundry. Boosters were all over him, offering money, cars, and clothes, but we heard of no sanctions against him or Notre Dame. He kept his nose clean. He’s a stand-up guy, right?
All of the above in regards to Te’o’s season is true, with one glaring exception: Lennay Kekua. We all know the story by now: Te’o was duped by a sick, twisted mind in Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and had been so naïve that he was “catfished.”
If you believe that the sweetheart from South Bend was duped and manipulated by such an evil person, maybe the rest of this article isn’t for you.
Tell me, how is a 23 year old man, with millions upon millions of dollars coming his way in April, with all the aforementioned things going on around him in high school and in college, simply naïve enough to be “catfished?”
He supposedly had known Kekua since a game Notre Dame played at Stanford in 2009. Three years, really? Reports said for three years Te’o and Kekua knew each other and yet Te’o never once questioned why they hadn’t ever met in person or questioned himself when feelings started to surface?
He said in an interview with Yahoo’s Gene Wojciechowski that Kekua was the “love of his life,” but it was widely known that he “dated” girls around campus at Notre Dame.
Reports say that Te’o received the phone call saying that Kekua was, in fact, not real and had never existed on December 6, 2012. On December 8, 2012, Te’o was on national television at the Heisman presentation being interviewed by ESPN’s Chris Fowler and continued to talk about her passing.
According to the Deadspin.com report on the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te’o have known each other dating back to Te’o’s time in Hawaii, but Te’o was duped by his one-time friend and two of Tuiasosopo’s accomplices.
Tuiasosopo’s lawyer, Milton Grimes, has stated that Tuiasosopo was impersonating the voice of Lennay Kekua on the phone with Te’o, to whom he’s had over 1,000 phone calls. Yet ESPN now reports that it was the female cousin of Tuiasosopo, Tino, which was the voice behind Kekua.
Why would Tuiasosopo try to take the rap by himself? To protect his family? Or to protect the integrity of his friend, Manti Te’o.
In an interview with Katie Couric, after being asked about why he continued to lie to ESPN’s Chris Fowler two days after receiving the phone call that Kekua was indeed not dead, Te’o asks, “What would you do?”
What would I do, Manti? I would have been forthright. Te’o should have had a tell-all interview with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick on the day he found out he had been “catfished,” but he didn’t.
Te’o should have questioned more and tried harder to meet his mysterious girlfriend, but he didn’t. If Kekua had been the “love of his life” like he told Wojciechowski then he would not have dated other girls on Notre Dame’s campus, but he did.
Whether Te’o was contrite or not in this whirlwind, turned and twisted hoax is still under investigation. Many people will form their own opinions of what happened until the truth comes out, but the facts speak loudly.