Over the course of the NCAA football season, one personal life story was repeated more than any other. Notre Dame’s senior standout lineback Manti Te’o lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend in the same week, but he persevered and led the team to an undefeated season, a berth in the National Championship Game and a second place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. It’s both a depressing and an inspiring tale. Unfortunately, it’s a bullshit tale too.
This morning, Deadspin published a long expose about how Te’o’s “deceased girlfriend” was nothing more than a made-up sham. She never attended Stanford. She never got leukemia, and as far as anyone knows, she never even existed. She was a figment of someone’s imagination, though that someone depends on who you believe.
Te’o and his parents reportedly informed Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on December 26 that he had been victimized by an Internet scam. Here is Te’o’s actual statement in response to the Deadspin article…
”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.”
If Twitter reaction is any indication, the response to Te’o’s statement has been skepticism at best and outright revulsion at worse. Unfortunately for the linebacker, he put so many statements on record about his experiences with the Stanford student that it seems to many like he couldn’t possibly have been duped by someone trying to play a practical joke.
Prior to this mess, Te’o was expected to be a high first round pick. If it turns out that he did, in fact, lie about this entire relationship for publicity or sympathy or any other fucked up reason, his stock will likely plummet.
We’ll keep you updated when more details become available.