SARASOTA - Notre Dame star linebacker, Manti Te'o, says he was the victim of an embarrassing plot. His dead girlfriend, a woman he met online, never existed.
Right now, Te’o is on the Suncoast training at IMG Academies.
Various media outlets camped out here all day, waiting to see Te'o. He is here at IMG this week training for the spring NFL Draft, and so far he's not talking to reporters about the elaborate hoax, other than a statement that was released by his agent. Now, the question everyone is asking is who was actually involved in that hoax.
The star linebacker's love story gripped the nation. “Six hours ago I just found out my grandma passed away and you take the love of my life,” says Te’o.
That love, girlfriend Lennay Kekua, reportedly lost her battle with leukemia. His incredible lose and decision to honor her memory by playing against Michigan instead of going to her funeral further humanized the athlete. “She made me promise babe, if anything should happen to me you promise you'll stay over there and you'll play and honor me.”
His performance on the field and heart breaking story off of it made him a front runner for the Heisman Trophy. But it turns out that Kekua, who Te'o met online never had Leukemia, never died and never even existed.
Te'o says he was duped. In a statement he says, "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
His school, having conducted its own investigation, believes him. “This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax,” says Jack Swarbrick, Athletic Director, Notre Dame.
But writers for sports website deadspin.com, who broke the story, are not convinced he's innocent. “I think a lot of people are very suspicious when Te'o says he had no idea and he was just the sucker in this because why would somebody go to such great lengths to hoax him like this.”
Deadspin.com realized this girlfriend was someone's fabrication after a tip. In their research, they weren't able to find a death certificate or school records for the woman.
Officials here at IMG are keeping quiet. They are not allowing the media on the property, and they're not saying anything.