Manti Te’o was once a can’t-miss NFL prospect, but now he has more to prove than most players in the nation when the NFL scouting combine begins on Wednesday. Because of a certain situation with a young lady who never actually existed, NFL teams have a number of questions about the former Notre Dame linebacker.
Does the girlfriend Hoax affect who Te’o is as a player? He says it does not.
“I have to just go out there and perform and all that other stuff is behind me,” he told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. “What I did on the field is what I did on the field. I don’t think what I did with this whole situation, I don’t understand how it takes away from what I did on the field.
“As far as my stock dropping or rising, that’s not up to me. The only thing I have to do is just do well, run fast, just be myself, be quick.”
As we know, performance on the field is hardly all NFL teams are interested in. Te’o played one of his worst games of the season in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, and that almost certainly happened because he was distracted. Since the Lennay Kekua hoax was one of the biggest stories of the year, NFL teams have to be wondering if the distraction will ever be fully gone.
“I didn’t do anything illegal,” Te’o said. “I didn’t break any rules, I didn’t hurt anybody. I just wasn’t very forthcoming, as forthcoming as I should have been but in that, I didn’t do anything wrong.
“I have to just be myself. For me, the greatest fault would be to tell somebody something I’m not. And when it’s time to do the interviews, just be myself and everything will fall into place.”
Let’s not forget that one NFL team asked a college player about his mother being a prostitute. Is that information needed to know whether or not that player would be effective at the NFL level? Probably not, but the point is NFL teams worry and ask about everything. Will reporters still be asking about Teo’s fake girlfriend when minicamp begins this summer or the summer after? That is the question that could keep Te’o’s draft stock a bit lower than it would have been months ago.
Manti Te’o may have made his life slightly easier if he got off Twitter a long time ago, but his account remained active through Super Bowl Sunday. According to ESPN.com, Te’o has decided to quit tweeting for an unknown period of time while he prepares himself for the NFL Draft, which will take place from April 25-27.
Te’o’s decision to quit Twitter was somewhat abrupt. During Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, he was one of a number of athletes and celebrities who seemed to highly approve of Beyonce’s halftime performance.
As we showed you on Sunday night, Beyonce’s act was a huge hit with a number of big names on Twitter. The former Notre Dame linebacker was one of them, but his account was gone by the time the game ended on a controversial no-call in the end zone.
Considering the unbelievable turn of events that has taken place in Te’o’s life over the past month, the last thing he needs is any additional distractions as he attempts to improve his draft stock before April. Staying away from social media until he finds a home in the NFL is probably a good idea.
Manti Te’o sat down with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap for his first interview since it was revealed on Wednesday that his supposed girlfriend who allegedly died of leukemia in September was a hoax.
The interview was not shown by ESPN, but Schaap reported on SportsCenter Friday evening that Te’o told him he was not convinced that Lennay Kekua was not real until Wednesday.
Schaap says Te’o told him that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to have been behind the Kekua fabrication the entire time, called and Twitter messaged him on Wednesday to apologize for running the whole scam.
Schaap says Te’o told him that he lied to his father, Brian, about his relationship with Kekua, which explains why some of the stories printed about Te’o’s relationship with Kekua that were sourced by Brian contained false information.
According to Schaap, Te’o, while in Hawaii over Christmas break, told his parents he was going out to meet Kekua on New Year’s in 2012. Kekua never showed but, Te’o, not wanting to get into a long discussion with his parents about it, told them he saw her.
Te’o denied having a role in the scam.
The person posing as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, told the former Notre Dame linebacker in December that she faked her death in September in order to avoid drug dealers, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports.
According to a timeline of events provided by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on Wednesday shortly after Deadspin broke the story of Te’o’s girlfriend being a hoax, the linebacker first realized something was wrong with the Kekua situation when he received a phone call from the number he associated with her while he was in Orlando for a college football awards show on Dec. 6.
The Star Advertiser says Te’o has told friends and family that the woman whose voice he knew to be Kekua’s called him in December and said she had to fake her death in September in order to avoid drug dealers. Te’o reportedly told friends and family that the woman tried to re-engage in a relationship with him. Te’o asked the woman to send him a time-stamped photo to help him sort through the matter. His suspicion remained even after receiving the photo, and he later told his family and the school about the scam.
Notre Dame said on Wednesday that Te’o alerted them about the hoax on Dec. 26, nearly three weeks after they say he received the bizarre phone call from the person posing as Kekua.
ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap reported that Te’o told him a similar story about Kekua resurfacing in December with a story about having to avoid drug dealers.
Deadspin reported on Wednesday that a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was behind the Kekua scam. Tuiasosopo reportedly admitted to a friend in December that he scammed Te’o.
Say it ain’t so… Te’o. Just when you thought it was safe to believe in a feel-good sports story involving the strength of character in the face of tragedy, you get the Manti Te’o saga that erupted on Wednesday. And I was just starting to get my head around the apostrophe in his last name. (A D’Brickashaw he is not.) Touchdown Jesus may want to lay low until the heat dies down.
A little more than a week has passed since Notre Dame lost out in its bid to become national champion for the first time since 1988. Alabama dashed those hopes, presumably the biggest damage done by a tide since Noah came floating by.
The story of how Notre Dame reached the National Championship Game was largely written on the shoulders of their burly Heisman-candidate linebacker Manti Te’o, who captured the hearts and minds of many with his story of perseverance despite the death of his grandmother and cancer-stricken girlfriend.
His now-alleged girlfriend, a supposedly former Stanford student by the name of Lennay Kekua, made the Te’o story something worthy of a Hollywood script (an appellation since diminished by the “Twilight” series). Never mind that a purely defensive player hasn’t been deemed worthy of the award since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, Te’o’s (too many apostrophes for one man) prodigious performances earned him national acclaim and bolstered the national titles hope of a woebegone program. The story of his lost love was picked up numerous national media.
While his acuity on the field isn’t to be diminished, the nation has come to know they were duped. No cancer-stricken girlfriend. No lost love. No final words of “I love you.” Nothing. We were painted a picture that was one part Georgia O’Keefe, two parts George O’Leary.
It was misdirection, trickery: a boy-in-the-well story meant to grab attention perhaps for a player who may have been deserving of Heisman accolades but may not have gotten them otherwise. It immediately hearkened back to 1971, when the school convinced Joe Theismann to change the pronunciation of his last name to rhyme with the award, as if his on-the-field prowess were not enough.
Outsports.com, which is the leading website on all matters relating to gay athletes/gays in sports, is questioning Manti Te’o’s sexual orientation in light of the story about his fake girlfriend. The site had the following headline as its featured story on Wednesday night: “Is Manti Te’o gay? Girlfriend hoax has many people asking.”
In the article, Cyd Zeigler Jr. says he was bombarded “on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about [Teo’s] sexual orientation” in light of the story.
Te’o and Notre Dame are claiming that the linebacker was the victim of an elaborate hoax involving multiple characters. They say he was duped into believing that a person posing as “Lennay Kekua” was real and that he had a relationship with her for years despite never meeting her in person.
Zeigler writes that creating a fake girlfriend is a good ruse to cover up one’s homosexuality:
I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they’re out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic.
Zeigler even referenced a past scheme pulled by an older gay man who created a false identity as a teenage hockey player, and later used his fake identity to proposition someone.
Te’o and Notre Dame say the linebacker never met Kekua in person. A story related by the South Bend Tribune in October contradicts that assertion. They say Te’o met Kekua after the Stanford-Notre Dame game in 2009.
Here’s what the story (since removed from the South Bend Tribune’s website) said:
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had a fake girlfriend. The story by Deadspin published on Wednesday first asserted that, and Notre Dame confirmed it in a press conference later in the day.
At this point we know that Te’o lied in some capacity about the story. He either:
a) Was part of the hoax and lied for some twisted reason (Deadspin reports his motivation was to gain publicity)
b) Lied about how he met his girlfriend, maybe because he was embarrassed about it being an online relationship.
No matter which side you believe — that he was in on it or not — Te’o lied.
Late Wednesday night, Twitter user Justin Megahan dug up some tweets from a few Twitter users who connected a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo to the Lennay Kekua fake identity.
Former Stanford defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo thinks Manti Te’o was truly duped by his fake girlfriend.
Masifilo, who played at Stanford from 2007-2011 and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November, claims Te’o was always asking Stanford players if they knew his mystery girlfriend.
For what it’s worth, Masifilo is half Tongan and half Hawaiian. He played high school football in Hawaii.
Based on what he’s saying Te’o may have been duped by someone. Either that, or he was so deep into his web of lies, he would go to these extremes to keep up the story.
Previously: Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend reportedly was a hoax
Previously: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame statements claim LB was victim of hoax
Previously: Catfish’s Nev Schulman says he is working on Manti Te’o story
Nev Schulman, the star of the documentary “Catfish” and host of the similarly named TV show on MTV, says he will be working on the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax story.
We don’t know if Schulman is joking about the matter, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get involved. At the least, his tweet proves how far-reaching this story has become.
“Catfishing,” is about to enter the American lexicon thanks to Wednesday’s affairs. The name refers to the practice of someone who creates a fake identity to deceive another person for purposes of an online relationship. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick referenced the term when defending Te’o as a victim in the alleged hoax.
Schulman hosts “Catfish: The TV Show,” in which he gets two people who have forged an online relationship to meet for the first time to see if one has been fooled or not.
This story will only get more interesting.
Previously: Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend reportedly was a hoax
Previously: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame statements claim LB was victim of hoax
H/T Marcus Vanderberg
Photo: Twitter/Nev Schulman
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference on Wednesday to address the explosive story from Deadspin that says linebacker Manti Te’o’s deceased girlfriend was a hoax. Deadspin reported a source was 80 percent sure that Te’o was in on the hoax and did so in order to gain publicity. Many details about the story don’t add up, and they seem to point to Te’o being involved in the hoax or, at the very least, lying on numerous occasions about his girlfriend.
The skepticism matters little to Notre Dame’s athletic department, which called the press conference to stand by their star linebacker.
In what will likely be remembered as the moment Notre Dame attached its anchor to the sinking Te’o ship, Swarbrick defended Te’o as an incredibly naive, gullible person who was duped by a group of characters out to get him. Swarbrick tried to uncover the alleged schemers’ motivation, suggesting they wanted to lead Te’o to commit an NCAA violation. Yeah, he went there.
But the most amazing revelation from the press conference came when Swarbrick said Te’o first approached the school about a potential hoax after claiming to have received a phone call from the girlfriend on Dec. 6 after her supposed September death.
“On the morning of December 26, Manti called his coaches to inform them that while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead,” Swarbrick explained.
“Manti was very unnerved about that, as you could imagine. But he maintained that secret until he called the coaches on the morning of the 26th.”
Swarbrick says the coaches informed him about the incident, and that he spoke with Te’o about it on Dec. 27 and 28.
“He became startled, shocked. That was absolutely the first sign,” Swarbrick said of Te’o’s reaction. “It goes to my comments about Manti and his character. Every single thing about this until that day in the first week of December was real about this to Manti. There was no suspicion that it wasn’t, no belief that it might not be. The pain was real, the grief was real, the affection was real.”
How do we explain that one? Maybe it was the moment Te’o was finally ready to end the whole act.