On Friday night, former Notre Dame All-American Linebacker Manti Te’o spoke with ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap about the revelation that his deceased girlfriend Lennay Kekua was not real. Te’o spoke off camera with Schaap, the six-time Emmy winner, in the presence of Te’o's attorney. Schaap stated that Te’o was “composed” and “in-control of the story”. Cameras were restricted and audio was limited. However, Schaap was allowed to ask any question he felt appropriate.
This is the first time that Manti Te’o has spoken about the hoax ever. Deadspin.com released the report about his girlfriend being fake on Wednesday. This was followed by a press conference from South Bend where Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told Notre Dame’s side of the story. During this press conference, Swarbrick backed Te’o. He even cried at one point during the interview. Since then several reports have surfaced about this situation.
In tonight’s interview with Schaap, Te’o said, “When they hear the facts, they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could have been part of this.” This confirmed what many people felt in their hearts but had trouble figuring out. The majority of the evidence that came out today favors Te’o's story. Shelley Smith reported that she spoke to an individual who said that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was responsible for the hoax and that Te’o was not involved.
Mant Te’o told ESPN that he lied to his father Brian Te’o about meeting Lennay Kekua. This prompted the different reports in various newspapers about the two people meeting. Furthermore, Te’o said that he attempted to Skype and FaceTime with Kekua several times but there was no one on the other line.
Te’o told Schaap that Tuiasosopo called Te’o two days ago and apologized for embarrassing him. It is important to note that Te’o had verification for these important parts of his story.
Te’o also told ESPN that this situation affected his play against Alabama in the BCS National Title Game. It was clear that Te’o was not the same player that he was during the next season. His teammates played just as poorly. This probably did effect his game but did it make a difference?
People may have questions as to way Te’o did not speak on camera. This is possibly an on going criminal investigation. It could also be the early stages of a civil lawsuit by Te’o against Tuiasosopo. Either way, not speaking on camera and in the presence of an attorney is fairly normal.
Although this saga is not completely over, this is the beginning of the end. Te’o will never be the same. Our opinions of him will undoubtedly be change. For me, he is still the same person who lined up on Saturday’s and gave his heart for the University of Notre Dame. He took a leap of faith to come to Notre Dame. He brought Notre Dame back to national prominence this season. However, it is spun, as fans, we are indebted to him.