One of the most talked about linebackers in college football history, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, is the center of a controversy involving a fictional girlfriend who Te'o claimed died in September.
Te'o said he had an exclusively online relationship with Lennay Kekua and claimed she lost her battle to leukemia in Sept. 11, the same day his grandmother died. The media was swept away in Teo's gut-wrenching story, reporting the incident extensively.
Yesterday, sports website Deadspin published a story saying Kekua never existed and that Te'o's story was self-manufactured.
However, Te'o maintained he was duped and that the person he was in love with was a cruel joke on him.
The public is split on whether Te'o is telling the truth or if Deadspin has the story straight. Regardless, here are five interesting facts about the football star and his love saga.
Te'o is one of Notre Dame's most celebrated linebackers:
The Heisman Trophy finalist (rare for a defensive player) has played in every single game during his Notre Dame career. He started 36 of the 38 games, 35 of which were consecutive. He has had 324 tackles, 157 solo stops, 28.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. In 2010, his 133 tackles were very close to earning him a spot in the top 10 in single-season school history, the most since 1983. His impressive career earned him a number of awards: second-team All-American award by five outlets in 2011, Capital One Academic All-America Second Team honors, and he was a finalist for the Lott Trophy and Butkus Award. He was also a semifinalist for the Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards. He's one of three players to be on all four lists, according to the University of Notre Dame's football website. Te'o is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, but it's unclear if the hoax will affect his stock.
Te'o boasts and interesting background:
He grew up in Hawaii and is a Mormon who attended a Catholic school. His impressive career landed him a coveted Heisman Trophy nomination – an honor that no college football player of Polynesian descent has received, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Te'o lost the award to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, but he still made history.
Notre Dame hired an outside firm to investigate Te'o's case:
It all started Dec. 26 when Te'o called the school's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick. At a press conference Wednesday explaining the relationship. Swarbrick said that once the administration caught wind of what was an alleged hoax, they hired investigators to find the perpetrator. On Jan. 4, after the investigators finished their work, Swarbrick said there was in fact a person who Te'o was speaking with, and that they had arranged to meet but Kekua never showed up, proving that Te'o's story wasn't a manufactured one and that he was in fact duped.
The director of MTV's "Catfish" is now involved with Te'o:
"Catfish," a television show that investigates online relationships and brings together people who never met before, has been mentioned numerous times following the controversy. The show's director, Nev Schulman, said he is working on his own investigation. On Wednesday he tweeted, "I have been in contact with the woman involved and will get the truth."
Twitter users are skeptical of Te'o's Catfish hoax claim:
He said his girlfriend told him to never miss one of his games, no matter what, but Te'o never attended her alleged funeral. There also is no record of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, resulted in no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper, according to Deadspin. Rather, the site argues that the photographs identified as Kekua — in online tributes and on TV news reports — are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate, she has not been in a severe car accident, and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te'o.
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