Manti Te’o had his doubts about whether his online girlfriend Lennay Kekua was a real person as far back as 2010, a friend now says.
The Notre Dame linebacker was found this week to be at the center of a hoax about his supposed girlfriend, Kekua, who reportedly died of leukemia back in September. A Deadspin expose unveiled that it was all a hoax likely started by an acquaintance of Te’o, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
In the days since the Manti Te’o hoax was revealed, Notre Dame officials have maintained that the linebacker played no role in the incident and was in fact a victim.
Now, in his first time speaking out in days, Te’o has also maintained his innocence, saying he knew nothing about the prank.
A friend backs up his story.
“Tessi Tolutau, a former Miss South Pacific, grew up five doors from Te’o in Hawaii. She has Facebook messages from Te’o as far back as September 2010, checking on the legitimacy of the fictitious Polynesian beauty Lennay Kekua, who would become his ;girlfriend.’ Te’o even wondered out loud if Kekua might be a prank.’
:Tolutau responded that she only knew Kekua from online messaging, and wondered if she was causing trouble.
“Te’o ignored his own instincts and eventually began an online and phone “relationship” with her, the start of a three-year ruse that ended in national humiliation for him this week.”
Tolutau went on to say that Manti Te’o had nothing to do with it, and in fact whoever was pretending to be Kekua was playing more than just him. Tolutau noted that Kekua had messaged her in 2008, pretending to ask for information on beauty pageants.
“She told me she played volleyball at Stanford, and that she was an aspiring model, and that she modeled for Victoria’s Secret,” Tolutau said Friday night via phone from her home in Utah. “She said she dated Mark Sanchez for a while. I thought, ‘OK, she’s trying to make herself sound really good.’ But the picture of her was of a tall, skinny, really pretty dark-haired girl. I totally believed she was a real person, so I can see how Manti would.”
Other evidence also backs Manti Te’o. An investigation from Catfish movie director and actor Ariel Schulman revealed that there are more athletes who were in contact with the Lennay Kekua character.