In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o listens during an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, right, on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. ESPN says Te’o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax. He said in the off-camera interview: “When they hear the facts they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could be a part of this.” (AP Photo/ESPN Images, Ryan Jones) MANDATORY
NEW YORK (AP) — Manti Te’o tried to put one of the strangest sports stories in memory behind him, insisting he was the target of an elaborate online hoax in which he fell for a fake woman created by pranksters, then admitting his own lies made the bizarre ordeal worse.
Whether his off-camera interview with ESPN was enough to demonstrate that the Notre Dame star linebacker was a victim in the scheme instead of a participant is still an open question.
The most important judges of the All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist may be pro football teams. Te’o has finished his coursework at Notre Dame and is preparing for the NFL draft at an elite training facility in Florida, where the 2½-hour interview was conducted late Friday night.
ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap said that the 21-year-old Te’o answered all his questions in a calm voice, and tried to clear up the mysteries and inconsistencies of the case.
Among the highlights:
— Te’o denied being in on the hoax. “No. Never,” he said. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this.”
— Te’o provided a timeline and details of his relationship with Lennay Kekua, his virtual sweetheart, who went through an array of medical calamities before “dying” of Leukemia in September, just hours after Te’o got real news of his grandmother’s death.
— He acknowledged that he lied to his father about meeting Kekua in person, then exacerbated the situation after her supposed death when he “tailored” his Login to read more