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Reports: Teammates thought Te'o overplayed girlfriend talk

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jan 18 2013 07:49:44 AM CST
Manti Te'o

Jeff Haynes / Reuters

A teammate of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said Thursday that whether his late girlfriend was a hoax or not, he overplayed her death in the media.

Meanwhile, TMZ unearthed a fan hoax that may have been started by the same man who reportedly tried to fool Te'o.

The roller-coaster story of Manti Te'o's girlfriend -- did she die, did she even exist, what did Te'o know, if anything and when did he find out he was being duped came to light Wednesday in a report on Deadspoin.

The website reported that Lennay Kekua was a creation of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Notre Dame officials and athletic director Jack Swarbrick have since defended Te'o as a victim of a "catfishing" scheme.

On Thursday, ESPN reported that a teammate said the players thought he created drama over the girl's death. He said Te'o enjoyed the attention he received because of death of the girl. Another player said teammates questioned if a girl he met once really was his girlfriend.

Another anonymous teammate told PepperOnSports.com: "He lied, but the media blew it up. ... Right after the Michigan (State) game. He should have never brought her in the media. His grandma passing was enough."

What is certain is that the Heisman Trophy finalist's grandmother died on Sept. 12 and that hours later there were reports that Te'o's girlfriend had died of leukemia.

Te'o said Kekua's death was his inspiration to elevate his play. He finished second in Heisman Trophy voting and helped guide the Fighting Irish to the BCS Championship Game against Alabama.

An independent investigation was launched by Notre Dame after the university found out what had taken place and according to Swarbrick, the alleged perpetrators showed no remorse.

The tale of lies and deceit began to unfold for Te'o while he attended an awards banquet on Dec. 6 in Orlando, Fla., Swarbrick explain. Te'o received a call from a phone number associated with Kekua and when he answered, the voice on the other end "unnerved" him. In fact, the voice was that of the woman Te'o thought was dead.

Te'o did not contact school officials until Dec. 26, wanting first to discuss the events with his family. On Dec. 27, Swarbrick learned the details of the relationship, prompting the investigation.

The final report was issued on Jan. 4 and Swarbrick believed Te'o and his family were prepared to release a statement sometime last week. But they did not.

Also Thursday, TMZ reported a Notre Dame fan contacted Kekua on Twitter while the she and Te'o were "dating." After Kekua "died", the fan started a "Wear a Lei 4 Manti" campaign, getting fans to wear Hawaiian leis to Notre Dame games.

The fan earned a new Twitter follower, who said she was Kekua's younger sister, U’ilani Rae Kekua. When the two arranged to meet at the USC-Notre Dame game in Los Angeles, U'ilani never showed but instead the fan was met by Tuiasosopo, who indicated he was a relative, and a child called Pookah.

Later, the fan was told by Tuiasosopo that Pookah had contracted Lupus and was dying. The fan sent flowers to address that TMZ found to be that of the Tuiasosopo family with a phone number registered to Titus Tuiasosopo, Ronaiah's father.