The Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax has taken another strange turn.
After it was revealed this week that Lennay Kekua was fictitious and the story of her death in September fabricated, one NFL player stepped forward to say that he actually met Kekua in the flesh. On Wednesday night, Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia said he actually met Kekua in 2011, ESPN noted.
“This was before her and Manti,” Mauia said. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”
Mauia said he met Kekua through Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man identified in a Deadspin expose as orchestrating the gake Lennay Kekua character.
Mauia said he knows that Manti Te’o's fake girlfriend actually exists, or at least someone claiming to be Kekua does.
“No, she is real,” Mauia said.
The story of Manti Te’o fake girlfriend has become one of the biggest sports headlines of the year, eclipsing even Lance Armstrong’s confession that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The original expose strongly suggested that Manti Te’o was in on the hoax, or at least knew about it, but Notre Dame officials have stepped forward to back Te’o's side of the story.
The university’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said he spoke with Manti Te’o when the university first learned about the dead girlfriend hoax a few weeks ago. He says that Te’o's account holds up, and believes the linebacker was just an innocent victim in the hoax.