As we learn more details and unravel the web of deceit, it gets even crazier.
A quick rundown:
According to Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia, Lennay Kekua (Te'o's allegedly fake dead girlfriend) actually exists, and he says he has met her.
How come this story didn't come out until now? Well... for numerous reasons.
For starters, sportswriters didn't care to look. In fact, there's a long list of people who never bothered to actually do the research. Including you and me.
Former CSN reporter Jackie Pepper says that at least one of Te'o's Notre Dame teammates knew he was lying back in September, but that the media blew it up and it got out of control.
Clay Travis is a former employee of Deadspin, the site that broke the story. He gave his thoughts about the whole situation, including a few claims that range from shocking to insulting.
- He implies that Te'o might be gay, and this this was all an elaborate cover story.
- ESPN knew about the story for 10 days and didn't release it, supposedly because they were waiting to have a sit-down interview with Te'o himself. Of course, this raises other questions. Did they mention this to Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit before the BCS title game? Or did they let their announcers unwittingly continue to lie about Te'o's story even after the network knew the truth?
It isn't fair to drag Reagan and Troy into this.. a lot of truths and myths need to be addressed here, and they will be at noon PST tomorrow— L K (@LennayKay) January 17, 2013
A somewhat cryptic tweet from Te'o himself implies that he might have known about this as early as November 12.
The worst thing you can do is fool yourself!— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) November 21, 2012
Call me crazy, but I'm pretty positive that Te'o knew about this long before that. He supposedly "met" this girl after a game at Stanford back in 2009. At least that's what he told the media.
In fact, he told the media a lot of things that weren't true at all.
We still don't know all the details of this story, and it's possible that we never truly will.
Personally, I believe that he was indeed fooled by someone. At one point, I believe that he was deceived, and thought he was talking to a girl who wasn't exactly who she was projecting herself to be.
Later, however, after a 3-year "relationship" that was exclusively online, I believe he had to know that this person really didn't exist. Even though he said in a post-game interview that he "knew that he would see them again," meaning his girlfriend and grandmother. It was all detailed in a 5-minute video outlining the tragedies:
At this point, Te'o simply HAD to have known that his so-called "girlfriend" was a fraud. After a 3-year relationship, during which he had not seen her a single time in person, there is no way he didn't realize what was going on.
Still, he let his teammates, the fans, and the media believe a lie.
At a time, it's possible that Te'o was indeed the victim, as ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick claims:
Still... even if Te'o was still genuinely fooled at that point, he's not the incredible person that people make him out to be. I don't care what was going on in his life, whether it was class, games, or anything else. If he honestly thought his girlfriend had leukemia and made no effort whatsoever to actually see her in person, he's not that great of a guy. Point blank.
But at some point, he knew that it was a lie. And he did nothing to stop the lie.
That lie eventually catapulted him to the forefront of the Heisman Trophy ballot, where he would eventually finish 2nd to Johnny Manziel in a surprisingly close vote.
Make no mistake: Te'o would never have been a Heisman finalist if not for this story, which ended up being a hoax.
Te'o used this fraudulent story to help push forward a Heisman Trophy campaign which, realistically, never should have existed in the first place.
If any other linebacker had similar numbers and an overall performance similar to Te'o this year, they wouldn't even be on the Heisman radar. Just ask Luke Kuechly, the Boston College linebacker who was better than Te'o for three seasons, got drafted 9th overall in 2012, and led the NFL in tackles in his rookie season. He never even sniffed Heisman consideration, despite the fact that he was not only a better college player than Te'o, but also a better pro prospect.
If not for the fabricated story about his dead girlfriend, Te'o would have been just another pretty damn good player on a pretty damn good Notre Dame defense.
Instead, he knowingly allowed the fans and media to believe what he knew to be a lie. Because it benefited him.
Say what you want about what a great guy he is, but it's simply not the case.
Did he really think he had a girlfriend with leukemia? If so, why did he never visit her in the hospital?
If he knew the truth, which I believe to be the case (at least in 2012), then why did he lie to the media multiple times? Obviously, it's because he knew that a good story would help his Heisman chances.
Sorry, but this isn't the kind of guy you thought he was. Either he's nowhere near as smart as everyone wanted to believe, nowhere near as nice as everyone wanted to believe, or (most likely) both.