NEW YORK — Manti Te’o tried to put one of the strangest sports stories in memory behind him, insisting he was the target of an elaborate online hoax in which he fell for a fake woman created by pranksters, then admitting his own lies made the bizarre ordeal worse.
Whether his off-camera interview with ESPN was enough to demonstrate that the Notre Dame star linebacker was a victim in the scheme instead of a participant is still an open question. In a 2½-hour interview was conducted late Friday night, ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap said that the 21-year-old Te’o answered all his questions in a calm voice, and tried to clear up the mysteries and inconsistencies of the case. Among the highlights:
• Te’o denied being in on the hoax. “No. Never," he said. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this."
• Te’o provided a timeline and details of his relationship with Lennay Kekua, his virtual sweetheart, who went through an array of medical calamities before “dying" of leukemia in September.
— The Associated Press