Manti Te’o was the perfect mark for a hoax that fooled the nation and the linebacker himself into believing that his girlfriend died of leukemia.
The story of Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend unraveled on Wednesday after a lenghty expose from Deadspin. The story says that the girlfriend of Manti Te’o, Lennay Kekua, was made up by a former associate of Te’o. The fake girlfriend, who Te’o only interacted with online, became a source of inspiration when she reportedly died on the same day that Te’o’s grandmother passed away.
Notre Dame and Te’o released statements claiming that he was a victim in the hoax, and now the university’s athletic director is stepping forward to defend Te’o as well.
Jack Swarbrick said during a press conference that Manti Te’o was the victim of a “very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax” and says that, after meeting with Te’o, he trusts what he heard from him.
“I want to stress, as someone who has been engaged in this as anyone the past couple weeks, that nothing I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te’o one iota,” Swarbrick said. “The same great young man, great student and great athlete that we have been so proud to have as a member of our family is the same guy tonight, unchanged in any way except for, as he indicated in the statement, his release, the embarrassment of being a victim in this case.”
Swarbrick said Te’o’s personality made him an easy target.
“In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark, because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help, that as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti, it roped him more and more into the trap,” Swarbrick said. “He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help.”
Swarbrick said Te’o got a call when he was in Orlando for a college football awards show, which was December 6, from a number he knew to be Kekua. The voice on the other end was the one he knew as Kekua, Swarbrick said, and the person on the other end who Te’o had known to be his girlfriend, who he thought died in September, told Te’o she was not dead.
Swarbrick also gave another yet-unreported detail. He said that on December 6, weeks after Kekua’s supposed death, Te’o got a call from a number that belonged to Kekua. Te’o heard the voice that he knew as Kekua’s telling him that she was not really dead.
“Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine,” Swarbrick said.
From Yahoo! Sports:
“Te’o called Notre Dame’s coaches early in the morning on Dec. 26 to tell them what happened, Swarbrick said. That’s when the university started looking into the matter including two meetings between Swarbrick and Te’o, the first of which lasted an hour and 45 minutes. Swarbrick said he was comfortable with the consistencies in Te’o’s story. Swarbrick said Notre Dame hired private investigators to look into the hoax.”
Swarbrick added that Manti Te’o may address the media on Thursday to give his side of the story.