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Manti Te’o's Fake Girlfriend Rocks the Sports World

Manti Te'o
Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

I have never heard the word hoax as much as I have this week.

This one is just plain strange.

Deadspin turned one of the biggest college football stories of the year upside down when it reported that Notre Dame star Manti Te’o's girlfriend doesn’t exist.

In case you don’t know the story, the ND linebacker rose to fame this past fall as he led his team on a comeback of sorts, despite facing personal tragedy. Back in September, Te’o learned that his grandmother had passed away…just hours later, his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia. After hearing the news, he went out and played on in honor of them, pulling off a huge upset against Michigan State. It was a storybook win.

Te’o suddenly was up for the Heisman Trophy, and his story seemed to resonate with voters. He came in second.

It seems like something out of a movie, because it might as well be.

Lennay Kekua, who inspired his whole season, doesn’t exist. She never did. Despite newspaper articles that talk about how the two met after a football game and Te’o's father and former teammates claiming they’ve met her, the whole thing is apparently a hoax.

There’s no record of her anywhere. The supposed photos of Lennay were taken from some other woman’s Facebook account.

Te’o released a statement saying:

This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

Um, what? So they met after a game or on Twitter? Which is it? And why lie about it?

It was suggested in the same Deadspin report that a high school classmate of Teo’s, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, was behind the whole hoax, but Kekua and Te’o reportedly ‘dated’ for about 9 months before she died.

How did that go for so long without Te’o thinking something was off??

This whole Catfish-style online identity hoax thing is just odd to me. Perhaps it’s because I tend to be suspicious of everyone and don’t easily trust people, but after a month or two, wouldn’t you start asking questions?

I’m more inclined to think something else is up here…or at the very least, a lot more to the story.

What do you think of this? Tell us in the comment section below!

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