Te'o Speaks
Photo Courtesy USA TODAY SPORTS
Photo Courtesy USA TODAY SPORTS
Publisher
Posted Jan 19, 2013


In an off-camera interview, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o spoke with ESPN's Jeremy Schapp Friday night.

Manti Te'o broke his three-day silence Friday night in an interview with ESPN reporter Jeremy Schapp. Over the course of a 2-1/2-hour interview, Te'o reportedly answered all of Schapp's questions with Schapp later noting, "He didn't seem nervous. He seemed to be able to communicate clearly about everything that had happened over the course of several years about his relationship with Lennay Kekua."

"To my ears, he made a very convincing witness in his own defense," Schapp said. "I'm sure people will form their own judgements when we have a chance to put out more of what he said. I don't know how many questions were asked. He answered all of them, really unflinchingly. If he's making up his side of the story he's a very convincing actor."

Asked for the record if he was "in any way part of this," Te'o stated. "No. Never. Never would I be part of this…"

Schapp addressed inconsistencies that Te'o often suggested in interviews he had physically met Kekua:

"That goes back to what I did with my dad," said Te'o. "I knew that -- I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone -- people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn't meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude."

Te'o admitted lying to his father about meeting Kekua "around New Year's of 2012." Te'o was supposed to meet with her on Hawaii during a visit home at Christmas break Schapp said, but "she was a no-show."

When he returned home to his parents, his father, Brian Te'o, asked how the first-time meeting went. Manti told Schapp he offered something along the lines of, "We had a good time." Te'o then never corrected his father regarding falsification of his meeting, leading to Brian Te'o's subsequent revelations to reporters that the pair had indeed met.

Schapp noted Te'o was still not convinced that the situation was a complete hoax when he received a phone call from the supposedly deceased Kekua on December 6.

Te'o said he received a call from the number Kekua had used. He answered and a woman's voice said there was something she needed to tell him, but it could wait until after the national title game on Jan. 8.

Te'o said he told the caller, "I said you have to tell me now, because if you don't tell me now, I'm still going to think about it,"

"She said, 'It's Lennay.' So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad," Te'o said. "I just went on a rampage. 'How could you do this to me?' I ended that conversation by saying simply this: 'You know what? Lennay, my Lennay, died on Sept. 12.'"

Te'o said the person claiming to be Kekua told him stories about hiding from "drug people."

"There were a whole bunch of possibilities going through my head," Te'o told Schapp. "She could have died. This could be (U'ilani) trying to pull a stunt on me."

Te'o told Schapp he was, "just confused at this point," and told his parents, and later his coaches over Christmas that Kekua might be alive. The University subsequently started its investigation.

Talking Points

Te'o told Schapp he didn't know for sure that his internet girlfriend, "Lennay Kekua" never existed until Wednesday (January 16) when purported perpetrator of the hoax Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called him and admitted he was behind the hoax.

Schapp asked Te'o what he thought should happen to Tuiasosopo. "I hope he learns," Te'o said. "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."

Schapp offered Te'o, "answered every question I asked."

Among them:

On the beginning of their relationship: Te'o said Kekua sent him a friend request on Facebook the winter of his freshman year (2009) at Notre Dame. "My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship," Te'o said. "There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end."

On whom he was told is responsible for the hoax: "Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing." Asked who, Te'o offered, "I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."

On Kekua's "car accident" that was to have occurred on April 28, placing her in a coma: "I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through Noah, her brother, and he used her phone. And he would put me supposedly right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going. And she would be breathing. ... They said every time I was on the phone, they would tell me the nurse noticed that whoever was on the phone with her, she must have recognized the voice, because she would start breathing quicker and I could hear on the phone."

On her awakening from the coma in May: "Every day. I slept on the phone with her every night…I'd be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident, and she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I'd have the phone on the whole night."

On why he didn't go see her in the hospital: "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school."

On his last conversation with her prior to "death" (Sept. 12): Te'o's mother and father had previously called Te'o to tell him his grandmother had died. Te'o said Kekua called him thereafter. "I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered," he said. "So Lennay was just trying to be there for me. I just, I just -- I just wanted my own space. We got in an argument. She was saying, 'You know, I'm trying to be here for you.' I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself.

"Last thing she told me was 'Just know I love you.' "

Te'o told Schapp he later received the phone call, while in the Notre Dame locker room, that Kekua had died from leukemia. He stayed in contact with Kekua's "family" after her death and they told him not to come to the funeral because, "Her mom told them she didn't want me to come."

"They didn't want -- and I didn't want myself -- I didn't want that to be the first time that I saw her was laying in a coffin," he said.


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