Manti Te'o interview highlights
The following is an edited transcript of Jeremy Schaap's interview with Manti Te'o.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was your reaction when you saw the story came out on Wednesday?
MANTI TE'O: Avoid every piece of technology, don't listen to anything, don't turn the TV on, don't go on Twitter, don't go on Facebook, and that kind of got -- I got information from my friends, and they were telling me what people were saying about me and stuff.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You didn't read the story?
MANTI TE'O: No, I haven't.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You shut yourself down?
MANTI TE'O: Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But people are telling you what's out there?
MANTI TE'O: They're telling me, you know, generally what's out there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How has this affected your family?
MANTI TE'O: The hardest thing for me is to know that it's not my first name I care about, it's my last name. And to see that being tossed around, because there's a lot of people who carry the same last name as me.
And just to hear from my peers what people are saying about me and about my family and just the trouble that my family's going through is the hardest part for me to swallow.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It must seem surreal? I mean, it's just 10 days ago you were playing in the national championship game. You were on top of the world and now you're at the center of this maelstrom.
MANTI TE'O: Things happen. And good things happen and bad things happen. And I'm a person -- I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What's the reason here?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know yet.
How he met KekuaMANTI TE'O: It was Facebook -- she friend requested me on Facebook the winter of my freshman year at Notre Dame. And I introduced myself through message via Facebook. I just -- simple, I'm Manti. I saw you friend requested me, feel free to talk. Just simple, general introductions. And we just got to know each other just as acquaintances. It was nothing big, nothing spectacular, nothing greater than that.
And what people don't realize is it ended. My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship. There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end. She would go her way and I would go my way. And then months would go by and out of the blue she'd call me or she'd text me say: How are you doing? And we'd talk for a period of time again. And she would leave to Europe. And all of a sudden things would stop again. And I would go my way again and she would go her way. And kind of could see --
JEREMY SCHAAP: Until...
MANTI TE'O: Until it was my junior year. We were about to play Purdue at Purdue. And she called me at the hotel. And it was just casual. She just called me said: "Hey, it's me Lennay." I said: "How are you doing?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Had you spoken before or was it only Facebook before?
MANTI TE'O: No, we spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends. And then she contacted me that Purdue game and she just said "Hey, how are you doing? I'm going through some hard times with my boyfriend" -- at the time she had a boyfriend at the time -- "and just want you to be there for me, just be my friend." I said, "Sure, I'll be here for you."
And eventually we just kept talking and kept talking and kept talking. Everything kind of changed a little when her dad passed away. She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was just being that shoulder to cry on. And I kind of just naturally cared for the person.
And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet. I was trying to get to know her and get to know a whole bunch of other people. And for that period of time we talked and talked and got to know each other better and better and better. And everything changed April 28th. I got a phone call from her brother Noa (Kainoa) that she had got in the car accident.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Had you ever heard from him before?
MANTI TE'O: During that period of time from -- yeah, from Purdue, from when her dad passed away until April 28th, she took a trip to New Zealand. And while she was in New Zealand, she always told me about her brother Noa, that was her twin brother, and that he was with her and she said, "Hey, Noa's here; he wants to say hi." He introduced himself to me. He said, "What's up man, I'm Noa." That was the only communication with Noa until April 28th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's fascinating to me, I don't want to get you off track here. But you still talk about her as if she is real. But you say she, I mean that's just you're so accustomed to it, I guess.
MANTI TE'O: Well, in my mind I still don't have answers. I'm still wondering what's going on, what happened.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So April 28th, her brother, someone purporting to be her brother called you and said
MANTI TE'O: "Bro call me back, Lennay got in a car accident. Need to you call me back." So I did. I eventually found out that she was in a coma and she was in a coma for quite some time, a couple of weeks. And I would talk to -- I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through Kainoa, her brother, and he used her phone. And he would put me supposedly right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going. And she would be breathing. And she would quick -- they said every time I was on the phone, they would tell me the nurse noticed that whoever was on the phone with her, she must have recognized the voice because she would start breathing quicker and I could hear on the phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: They put a nurse, somebody saying they were a nurse on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: Yes. I didn't talk to the nurse. They were telling me "the nurse."
JEREMY SCHAAP: OK.
MANTI TE'O: So they were saying -- they were telling me, "Bro, she recognized your voice. We know she's there. We know she can hear you." She would quicken her [breath]. And I heard it on the phone. They would do it to me. And so that was my communication while she was in a coma.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why at that time did you not go see her?
MANTI TE'O: It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school. I was finishing up my year and I was going home. It was towards the end of my junior year. End of my junior year, and I was about to go home. When I decided to go home, the day that I decided to -- the day I left to go home -- they called me and said that that was the same day that they were going to pull the plug. And so it intensifies the whole thing. I'm on the plane. I figured they're about to pull the plug on someone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: At this point, how would you describe the depth of your relationship with her?
MANTI TE'O: It naturally kind of just took a whole different level.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But I mean before this, before the car crash.
MANTI TE'O: Before the car crash, it was -- we were talking. I was talking to her. I was talking to other girls. Just trying to get to know people. I was a college player, just trying to get a feel of who was who.
JEREMY SCHAAP: There was a lot of girls.
MANTI TE'O: There were a lot of girls. Not a lot. A couple.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So she was not at this point. You hear about the car accident. She's in the coma. And the relationship gets deeper why?
MANTI TE'O: All my focus went just to her, in caring for her. Making sure she was OK. Whenever you feel that you're about to lose somebody, you know, reality kicks in, and it's like, OK, I'm going to be here for her, take care of her. And so my focus turned straight to Lennay.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You said it occurred to you never to go see her. Is that because you never saw her, at that time? It never occurred to go see her?
MANTI TE'O: I was in school. I was in the middle of finals. I was going home. And I was going to try . So the flight home was from Chicago to San Diego; we had a long layover in San Diego. We planned she was going to come pick me and my best friend Robby in San Diego, cruise around. She had to back off. We had a flight from San Diego to L.A. and L.A. to home [Hawaii]. So that was the plan. I wasn't going to go see her. She was going to come see me in San Diego and then the accident happened.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When do you hear that she's out of the coma. Where do you think she is, physically?
MANTI TE'O: In some hospital in L.A. It's kind of weird to think about it now. I was actually on the phone when she actually got out of the coma. She was breathing as normal as I'm talking to a person breathing. On that phone call, all she utters is "Manti." I'm back at home at the time for summer break. And she utters "Manti." So I'm sitting there like, by the way, hello, And she says "Manti, Manti" in a faint voice. That's when she wakes up. It happened about two, three, four days after I got home (in mid-May).
JEREMY SCHAAP: Now she's out of the coma and you guys just resume again.
MANTI TE'O: Obviously, our relationship has gone to another level where I'm just exclusive to her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why?
MANTI TE'O: Because I wanted to. When she got into an accident, I was like, OK, this is who I want to be with.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How did you become so attached to someone just from these kinds of communications.?
MANTI TE'O: Lennay was Polynesian. She wasn't Mormon. She was Christian. So she understood my background. I understood her background, she understood my background. I understood her values, she understood my values. So there is a sense of understanding between us.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It was like you already knew each other?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, it was like we already knew each other. She knew what I expected of her, and I knew what she expected of me. That's how our conversation carried. There was a spiritual aspect of our relationship that pushed us to the next level.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How often would you communicate after she got out of the coma?
MANTI TE'O: Every day.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Every day?
MANTI TE'O: Every day. I slept on the phone with her every night.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Explain what you mean by slept on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: I'd be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident and, she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I'd have the phone on the whole night.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did you know about her? I don't want this to sound prurient. But physically, what kind of picture did you have of her in your head? Did you see a picture online?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, the picture that they sent me. The pictures that I saw on their Twitter, and the original Facebook that they had, that is the picture that I saw.
MANTI TE'O: Attractive girl?
MANTI TE'O: Very.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did she sound this way to emotionally connect with you?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Now looking back at it, can you see how you were manipulated?
MANTI TE'O: To be honest -- to be honest with you, I thought it was natural. It seemed natural. It seemed like, even though I just met her, she knew a lot about me already. No red flags popped up. Initially when I started to talk to her, obviously, I didn't see her yet, so I asked other people who knew of her and who had history with her, "Is this girl real?" And all of them said, "Yeah, she's real." So that kind of gave me confidence, that, yeah, I'm fine.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who are these people that you reached out to?
MANTI TE'O: I reached out to my cousin and asked him.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Your cousin who?
MANTI TE'O: Shiloah, my first cousin. I asked him do you know this girl Lennay? And he said, "Yeah, I know this girl Lennay." And I said, "Is she real?" And he said, "Oh, yeah, she's real, bro, she's real."
JEREMY SCHAAP: He knew her?
MANTI TE'O: I guess he was in the same situation that I was in. He just didn't talk to her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: He was duped, as well?
MANTI TE'O: I talked to a former Oregon State quarterback who used to talk to her, as well. Who used to talk to her, as well.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who was that.?
MANTI TE'O: Lyle Moevao. I asked him, and I still have the messages from him. "Hey, do you know who this Lennay girl is." He said "Yeah. I know her." He was like: "What's up?" I said, "We're just talking." He said, "I know her. She's real, bro. She's kind of weird. But she's real."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did they indicate they'd ever met her?
MANTI TE'O: I didn't ask that.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah, why would you?
MANTI TE'O: I assumed that, you know, if she's real, then that means she's real.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I don't want to sound like I'm prying, of course, the whole thing is prying. But how would you -- had you had girlfriends before? Serious girlfriends? Serious romantic relationships before this?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So here's somebody you've decided to commit to exclusively, and there's no physical contact?
MANTI TE'O: Nope.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was so appealing about this relationship that you didn't need that?
MANTI TE'O: It was the spiritual aspect that took over. The spiritual aspect -- where in my past relationships, spirituality wasn't a big thing. It was something, but it wasn't in the forefront. She would always tell me that. "Manti, the only man I love more than you is -- well, two men, is God and my dad: I'll never put you in front of God." She would say stuff like that, and, we'd say prayers at night before we'd go to sleep. Then when we'd wake up in the morning, obviously, because I was on the phone, she'd say another prayer. She would always tell me to be humble. For me, that's what drew me in.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What about Skype-ing?
MANTI TE'O: I tried. I often asked to FaceTime, and she'd come on and, on my side, it would be a black screen. I'd be like, "I can't see you." And she would say, "Well, I can see me, and I can see you. What are you saying that you can't see me?"
JEREMY SCHAAP: She wouldn't say, "My camera was broken"? She was just like "Oh, you can't figure it out"?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, it was just "I can see you, and I can see me in the corner. What do you mean you can't see me?"
JEREMY SCHAAP: You must have had something in the back of your mind that you call people to say "Hey, is she real?"
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When did these calls begin?
MANTI TE'O: In the beginning. In 2010. When it first started.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Long before the Purdue game?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, long before that.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So by the time, the relationship is growing, and it's already confirmed in your mind that this is a real person?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And there are no suspicions anymore?
MANTI TE'O: Nope. No.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So, you're speaking every day, you're communicating, what, on Facebook?
MANTI TE'O: No, after April 28th, it was all phone, all phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That's a lot of phone time.
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And over the summer, what's going on other than speaking on the phone every night? Did you make plans to see each other?
MANTI TE'O: Yes. So I made plans to see her on July 4th weekend. And that weekend, our coach scheduled it so that, if you want to go home and celebrate the holiday with our families, we could.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You were going back to South Bend at this point?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, we were going back to South Bend for summer training, and I was going to go see her. And my parents knew, they knew; they said, "That's a good idea to go down there and see her." But my dad called and told me that, "Hey, son, to let you know we have a family reunion that same weekend. I know you're planning on going to see Lennay. But we would love to see you at the family reunion." My family is my No. 1 thing. I called her and said I was going to see my family in Utah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did that frustrate you?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, it was very frustrating, very, very frustrating.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And you were remaining exclusive at this point?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh, Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What had she told you about herself? Who do you think this person is, other than somebody that's been in a car accident? I mean, you know, what's her background and all of those things?
MANTI TE'O: She told me she was a Stanford alum. She went to Stanford. After her dad passed away, she took over her dad's business, Clark's Construction. Supposedly. I don't know if that's real.
JEREMY SCHAAP: A construction business in L.A.?
MANTI TE'O: A construction business in L.A.. Clark's Construction. She was a twin of her brother, Noa. She had two sisters, Jean and U'i U'ilani, and two older brothers, Kekoa and Kainoa. And she was part Tongan, part Samoan and part Japanese. Her mother was full Japanese, and her dad was Samoan.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How had she gotten to know so many Samoan football players?
MANTI TE'O: That I don't know. That I don't know. The Tuiasosopo who she is related to, very well known football player.
JEREMY SCHAAP: She said she was related to a Tuiasosopo?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, he have, her dad was a Tuiasosopo, but ended up taking on the mom['s name] or something and, that's why her name was Kekua.
JEREMY SCHAAP: This has been going on over the summer. The timeline seems much longer. Like years and years. But really we're talking about an intense relationship only from April 28, and only a few weeks after that she gets out of a coma, so mid-May until September. So less than four months. : MANTI TE'O: Correct.
[Te'o was asked about a photo he was sent after the accident.]
MANTI TE'O: So the brother later on, a couple days after the accident, sent me a picture of a silver-grayish, Ram 1500 that was --
JEREMY SCHAAP: A big truck?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, the truck that she was supposedly in or she was in there with a couple of her cousins and she was the designated driver, and she got hit by a drunk driver.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So this whole time she's in the hospital?
MANTI TE'O: This whole time.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So when are you told she has leukemia?
MANTI TE'O: We find out roughly the end of June, and early July, in that area. Yeah, around that area.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So this only intensifies your feelings for her, obviously?
MANTI TE'O: Correct.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who told you she had leukemia?
MANTI TE'O: She did, and her brother did.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How often are you speaking to her brother at this point?
MANTI TE'O: Once in a while, he would pop in. "Hey, what's up, man, how you doing?" Or when Lennay would be in pain and she was going through her operations, he would give her the phone and take it from her because she couldn't go through the operation with her phone, so he'd take it and I'd talk to him. "Hey, how's she doing?"
JEREMY SCHAAP: At this time, you never Google her, you never look for other signs of her existence?
MANTI TE'O: The only time of Googling I did was when she got in an accident and [I] went on to try to see if there was any news of the accident and couldn't find any. I didn't find any.
JEREMY SCHAAP: One thing that is interesting, you know, Samoan community is so tightly knit. So many people have connections to each other?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Was it -- I mean, would you hear about her from other people in the community? Did you ever make any inquires with people, like, "Hey, you're from L.A., you're Samoan, do you?" That kind of stuff?
MANTI TE'O: No, I just kept what our conversations were between Lennay and I felt were sufficient.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So she's got leukemia now. At this point or at any point, is there any kind of request for money? Is there anything that, you know, that would suggest some kind of financial motivation here?
MANTI TE'O: Early on, she said that she was going to send me money, actually. And she wanted to send it and she wanted to directly deposit it into my account. So she wants to know my checking account number, which I didn't give her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why not?
MANTI TE'O: I'm not giving my checking account number. I don't care who you are. I'm not giving my checking account number out to you. Then she went on and asked my best friend, Robby. Hey, Rob, I want to help you guys out with groceries or help you guys pay for the bills for the house. I've saved up some money, you know. Give me your checking account number, and I'll put it in there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And he did what?
MANTI TE'O: He didn't. I told him, whatever you do, do not give out your checking account number.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That didn't raise any alarm bells for you?
MANTI TE'O: No, because when she did that, when she asked me, I actually went to the credit union and asked them, "Hey, if somebody wanted to put money into my account and they asked for my checking account number, could they pull money out?" And they told me no. So that red flag went immediately down.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But you went to the credit union and checked it out?
MANTI TE'O: Yep, at Notre Dame.
JEREMY SCHAAP: The student credit union?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That's where you had your checking account?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So you did your due diligence?
MANTI TE'O: Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So this is moving rapidly now. This relationship, she's still in the hospital. When do you get back to school for the duration in the fall of 2012?
MANTI TE'O: When did I get back in school?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah, when did you arrive back in South Bend [from] Hawaii before the season? When was that?
MANTI TE'O: I stayed in South Bend from the beginning of June all the way through.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did your friends and your family know about this relationship at that time?
MANTI TE'O: They just knew her as my girlfriend the first connection that my family had with her, like I said, going back to the spiritual thing, Lennay and I started a thing called SOAP, which stood for scripture, observation, application and prayer. So she would pick out a picture one day, and we'd talk about our observations of it, and how it could apply to our lives, and then we'd say a prayer on helping us apply that scripture and what it's teaching us for our lives, and we'd do that every day.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Every day?
MANTI TE'O: Every day. She would send me a scripture, and we'd do the same thing. And I'd send her a scripture the next day. It was funny because a couple days later, my dad would say to me, what do you think of saying this with the old man, and share spiritual shots and I would say, "Hey, Dad, guess what? Lennay and I are doing something similar called SOAP." And he was like, "Can I join in?" And I said sure. So my dad joins in, and so so does my mom and my sister. So we have this big group going on. This big SOAP group, sending scriptures to each other observations. I still have them on my phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You've still got them?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And this happened every day?
MANTI TE'O: We'd slack off sometimes, and my dad would say, "Who is slacking now? Whose turn is it to send the scripture?" But for the most part it was every day.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You even came up with an acronym for it?
MANTI TE'O: Yep, SOAP.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who came up with the acronym?
MANTI TE'O: She did. She said it was something they did in the church group.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What kind of church did she say she belonged to?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. She said her uncle ran it.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Her uncle?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Do you think, looking back now, that your faith, your devoutness was used against you to lure you in?
MANTI TE'O: I think that for anybody who knows me, they know that my faith is big. They need to see that somebody else felt the same way and brought us together. So it helped -- it helped.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Made you closer?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I guess it did what they wanted to do.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So you're back now. Season is coming up. You're still able to maintain phone contact every night?
MANTI TE'O: Yep. She's still fighting leukemia. I have my own stuff for leukemia. You talk about red flags, it kind of just went off when I was with my best friend, Carlo. His mom is a cancer survivor. So I told his mom about my girlfriend. I said, "My girlfriend's going through cancer," and she said, "If she ever wants to talk, have her call me." I said, "She's on the phone right now." And she said, "Well, let me talk to her." So I gave her the phone. And the conversation was all cancer lingo. They were talking about this, and talking about.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So Lennay knew the right things to say?
MANTI TE'O: The right things to say about cancer. Talking about semesters, trimesters, stuff like that I don't know. Only they would know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Manti, you said you had your own thing about cancer. What do you mean?
MANTI TE'O: I lost both my grandfathers to cancer. My dad's dad, I haven't met. My dad's dad passed away when he was 10.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When you were 10?
MANTI TE'O: When my dad was 10.
MANTI TE'O: My other grandfather, the one I'm named for, passed away on Jan. 28, 2012. Two days after my birthday.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And you were very close to him?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I know you lost a brother? When was that?
MANTI TE'O: August 17, 1994.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How old was he?
MANTI TE'O: Four months. Four months old.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What kind of an impact did that have on you?
MANTI TE'O: Whenever you lose somebody, it brings your family closer together. You realize what really matters in life, and the people around you. Remembering experiences like that.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was the cause of his death?
MANTI TE'O: They said SIDS.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So, she's going through leukemia or acute leukemia. You're getting ready for the season. What do you -- is your mother, your grandmother, Annette, at this point, is her health starting to fail? Or was her death very sudden?
MANTI TE'O: Grandma was always sick. She had diabetes. It was sudden from our point of view, but it wasn't surprising that she passed.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How do you find out about her death?
MANTI TE'O: Mom and Dad call me the morning of Sept. 12 and tell me that Grandma passed away.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was that like for you?
MANTI TE'O: I lost my grandfather, and then I just lost my grandma. The patriarchs of our family, in less than a year, gone. The house that we used to run into, and they'd both be in there. Grandma cooking and Papa lifting weights in the back. No longer there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: This is a terrible day. You're thousands of miles from home. Your parents, your grandmother, and you get a phone call that she's gone.
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's later that day. What happened?
MANTI TE'O: Later that day, I get a text message.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It was later that day?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, later that day I get a text message from her brother . Just saying "Bro." That was it. I wondered why her brother was contacting me. Couple minutes later, I get the call from her brother Kekua, the oldest.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Not the one that you've been speaking to before?
MANTI TE'O: Correct, correct. He's telling me, he's crying, screaming, and he's just telling me, "She's gone! She's gone!" He's mumbling, "She's gone, she's gone, bro', she's gone." And I'm sitting there wondering who is gone? Why is he telling me that somebody's gone. Lennay's supposed to get home on September 11th, the day before. She was fine, you know? She was going home, she was fine. People were saying that she's getting better. I get a phone call that she's gone. They tell me Lennay's gone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How did it hit you?
MANTI TE'O: I was angry. I was confused. To say the least. Everybody, they saw.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Teammates?
MANTI TE'O: I guess I was on ESPN on the time I was on the phone getting the news. They were saying something about me, about what to expect, something positive. And I dropped the phone --
JEREMY SCHAAP: You mean, when you get the phone call from the older brother, you're watching ESPN and you're actually on the screen?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, I'm not watching ESPN; it's on in the locker room, and the guys are on.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And they're talking about you?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, they're talking about me, and I dropped the phone. I walk around the corner to get to the hallway, where nobody is. And as I walk, they said something positive about me. And one of my teammates said, "Hey, look at you, bro, on ESPN." And I was just mad. And there was a garbage can, and I hit the garbage can, and it flies, and I remember my teammates saying, "Is that how you really feel, bro? I thought you'd be happy." Stuff like that. I started crying and crying, punching the wall.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And this has got to be -- I know you talked about this before. This feels like the lowest point of your life?
MANTI TE'O: Correct. I'm in the hallway. My best friend is with me. Couple of my teammates are with me. Prince Shembo's with me, and Coach [Bob] Diaco's with me in the hallway. And Coach Diaco kept telling me, I remember he kept telling me, this is where your faith is tested. This is where your faith is tested. And eventually took me into the players' lounge just to get away because everybody was standing around looking.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's a hell of an act, if you weren't being deceived?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You think about somebody calling you a few hours after your grandmother dies and telling you that this woman you've develop a very close relationship with has also died. What kind of person would do that?
MANTI TE'O: Looking back on it now? I don't know. I really don't know. One, to lie about it, and two, to coordinate this death on the same day that I lost my grandmother, I don't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did Lennay know that your grandmother had died?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, she did.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You had called her?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You called her a few hours before after you find out that your grandmother's dead, and what does she say?
MANTI TE'O: Well, she called me and I had already found out that grandma is dead. I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered. So Lennay was just trying to be there for me. I just -- I just wanted my own space. We got in an argument. She was saying, you know, I'm trying to be here for you. I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself.
Last thing she told me was just know I love you. That was it. She tweeted a few hours later She sent her condolences after I talked to her, to my parents about my grandmother.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Via text?
MANTI TE'O: Text message. And a few hours later I found out that she passed away.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I mean, this is an act of almost inconceivable cruelty.
MANTI TE'O: Now that I look at it
JEREMY SCHAAP: So, what had you told your teammates, your friends about your relationship at this point?
MANTI TE'O: Before she died?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah?
MANTI TE'O: Nothing, really. I didn't really talk about her. The only two people who really knew of she and I were my roommates I'd be talking to her in the living room, and Zeke [Motta] would walk by, and he would say, "Is that Lennay?" I would say "Yeah." And he, he'd say, "Tell her I said hi." And she said hi. She would talk to Zeke. Lo Wood who was a cornerback for us, he unfortunately got hurt in fall camp, and she would tweet at him and say, "Hey, Lo, keep your head up. Just have faith in God. " And Lo Wood would come up to me and say, "You have the sweetest girlfriend."
JEREMY SCHAAP: The theory that people are positing that Manti made all of this up to promote his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy, how do you respond to that?
MANTI TE'O: Well, when they hear the facts, they'll know. They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You would have had to be telling people about a fictitious girlfriend for months to eventually say she died to garner sympathy because you had been telling people about your relationship for a long time. Especially your family.
MANTI TE'O: Especially my family.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How often did your father and mother communicate with Lennay?
MANTI TE'O: My dad didn't really communicate with Lennay at all. My mother kind of more so did. Lennay supposedly, I told you she wasn't Mormon, but she expressed that she wanted to become Mormon, and my mom, being a convert to the church, to the LDS church, I told Lennay, "Well, my mom's a convert to LDS church." "So," I said, "if you have any questions, ask Mom. She can tell you her experience." So she did. My mom had lengthy conversations with her about her experiences about being a convert and what she thought and shared with Lennay things to look for and things that she should do.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why did your father later tell reporters that you had met Lennay?
MANTI TE'O: That's on me. A child's biggest goal is to get the approval of his or her parent. Lennay was actually -- she was actually in Hawaii, and, you know, I made -- she said that.
JEREMY SCHAAP: In Hawaii?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, in Hawaii.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When?
MANTI TE'O: It was when I got home from one of the bowl games. We were having New Year's. Our family always New Year's Eve party with our neighbors, and I just got home from one of the bowl games. I find out that she's in Hawaii. So I tried to see if I could see her. She's on the opposite side of the island, supposedly celebrating the birthday of her nephew, Kingston. And she said she expressed her wants to come and see me, and she said that she was going to but her mom said that she wanted Lennay to stay with the family and celebrate Kingston's birthday party with them.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So, what do you mean it's on you?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, a few days later, I asked my dad if I could go sleep over at one of my friend's houses and that while I'm sleeping over, I'm going to go try and meet up with Lennay. I go to my friend's house, which was about 15, 20 minutes from where she was at. It was close, but I didn't have a car, and she did. But she said that her brothers were using it and she couldn't get there. So we ended up not meeting. So when I got home, Dad asked, "Hey, did you get to see her?" And, to avoid all the questions, I just said "Yeah, Dad, I saw her."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Do you think he would have been suspicious?
MANTI TE'O: I wasn't thinking as far as suspicion, I was thinking my dad would say, oh, operation shutdown.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What do you mean?
MANTI TE'O: He would just probably have said I don't support this relationship, and that's a risk that I wasn't willing to take at that time.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Because you sought his approval?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And you wouldn't have continued the relationship if he had said that he didn't like the way she was treating you?
MANTI TE'O: No, I just knew that Dad would say -- probably, yeah. I knew that Dad would probably be suspicious of it. And by him being suspicious of it, I didn't want to risk the chance of me telling Dad that I didn't meet her. His suspicion turned into him saying; OK, I would recommend you, you know, back away.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How often did your parents think that you guys had met?
MANTI TE'O: I think just that once.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Just that once?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, that's the only time they asked me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So that week you get the news about Lennay, and when is the first time you can remember -- it was hard for me to figure this out -- that the story became public? That your grandmother and your girlfriend had died? Do you have any idea? Like the first memory of the media you told? Or was it Coach [Brian] Kelly?
MANTI TE'O: It was Coach Kelly. Coach Kelly released it.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So he talked about it before you ever did?
MANTI TE'O: Before I did, yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And it was how long afterwards was it? The next day? The same day?
MANTI TE'O: I don't remember accurately. But I know that I was called in, and that's when I was interviewed, after Coach Kelly announced it.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You did a lot of interviews. It was a big story during the season. One of the stories of the college football season. You described your relationship in a way that suggested you had met her. Explain.
MANTI TE'O: That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that -- I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away. So people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You knew this was crazy, so you said you met?
MANTI TE'O: Exactly.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So looking back on that now, was that a smart thing to do?
MANTI TE'O: No, out of this whole thing, that is my biggest regret. And that is the biggest, I think, that's from my point of view, that is a mistake I made.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You were embarrassed?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, I was.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why?
MANTI TE'O: Because I knew that how everybody's reacting now, I knew it was going to happen. So I chose to be less crazy, be looked at as less crazy as somebody who had total faith into this individual, who committed himself to this individual, who cared about this individual without even seeing her, to have done that without even seeing her, people would consider it crazy.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Were you concerned that people would just think this is really weird? Here's this big football star, and he had this woman he really cared about, but he never even met her?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I was concerned. That was a big concern for me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: The stories are now -- the season is ramping up, and you guys win some big games, but the story is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. What are you thinking as this becomes a national story? Manti Te'o overcomes his grief to lead Notre Dame?
MANTI TE'O: What do you mean what am I thinking?
JEREMY SCHAAP: About the fact that you talk about this woman, and "I loved her, but I never met her"?
MANTI TE'O: I'm just -- to be honest, I'm just thinking of the season. I'm thinking of, you know, dedicating the season to my grandma and Lennay. Playing the best I can play. Just trying to do my best to help my team win. The whole story part about it, I didn't really pay attention.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why didn't you go to Lennay's funeral?
MANTI TE'O: Because Lennay's funeral was the same day of the Michigan game. And because, before Lennay passed away, we had a conversation where she asked me if she passed away, if I could go to her funeral? I told her no, I'm not going to talk like that. I'm not going to talk like that. She said, "Tell me this, if anything happens, promise me that you'll send me white roses and say you'll play." She said, "All I want is white roses." And leading up to the funeral, her siblings kept telling me that their mom told them she didn't want me to come. They didn't want -- and I didn't want myself -- I didn't want that to be the first time that I saw her was lying in a coffin. That's why I didn't go.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What about the roses?
MANTI TE'O: I sent them two dozen white roses, and my parents sent a little gift themselves.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Like a bouquet?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Where did they send them to?
MANTI TE'O: To their supposed house where Lennay stayed. 21503 Water Street, Carson, Calif.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You sent roses to that address?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And your parents sent a bouquet?
MANTI TE'O: To that address, Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Do you know what that address really is?
MANTI TE'O: No.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You still don't know?
MANTI TE'O: I've heard that it's foreclosed. That's all I know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: There was no reason for you ever to believe that the flowers were returned or anything like that, or nobody showed up to deliver them and nobody was there?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, they accepted it, and they sent me a picture of the roses, of them getting it. They sent a picture of the roses -- the flowers that my parents sent -- they sent it to my parents. As proof that they got it.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I mean, it's unfathomable, this whole thing. You're still trying to make sense of it?
MANTI TE'O: Still today.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Before I get back to what happened then, but I'm curious, there were so many stories out there. There was in particular one story somewhere that said that you guys had met back in 2009 at the Stanford game. Do you have any idea where that comes from?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. Because I didn't know Lennay back in 2009 during the Stanford game. That was my freshman year, I didn't know Lennay until after football season my freshman year. That I don't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You didn't supply that detail to a reporter?
MANTI TE'O: No, because the only time that I planned something to go see her was in 2011 my sophomore year, no my junior year, when we went back to Palo Alto to play Stanford, and that's when I tried to connect with her. But she, for some reason, was somewhere else. And that didn't go through.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So you're going into the season now. You have this magical season. How much of Lennay's death is weighing on you?
MANTI TE'O: It's helping me because my spiritual growth at that time, you know, I was always taught that the Lord doesn't put you through things that he knows you can't handle. So, as bad as it was, now that I know that, if I just have faith and if I did the right things, that everything would work out. So my spiritual life was at its peak at that time. So it helped. Her death, not saying it's a good thing, it motivated me to say my spiritual life was at its best.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You know, I guess, fast-forward to Orlando, Dec. 6th.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, before that I was always in contact with her sister, U'i.
JEREMY SCHAAP: U'i.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I would check in to make sure family was OK and check to make sure everybody's all right. They would let me know how the family was doing. They would use Lennay 's phone. So that's how we'd talk. And Dec. 6 came --
JEREMY SCHAAP: What about before that, the USC game [in late November]?
MANTI TE'O: The USC game, so Lennay had a little niece, who she called her niece, which was actually her little cousin. Her favorite -- everybody knows that little girl, Pookah, had been raised by Lennay. So, through me and Lennay 's relationship, I had gotten the chance to speak to that little girl. I got very familiar with her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You've spoken to a little girl on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, a little girl.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When? Throughout the course of this relationship?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, throughout the course of the relationship. So when Lennay passed away, the only memory of Lennay that I had here, I felt was that little girl. So when I was in -- before.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So somebody was putting what sounded like a little girl on the phone to talk to you?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Often?
MANTI TE'O: No, not really. Not until the USC game approached. And that's when I asked, "Hey, is there any way she can come see me?"
JEREMY SCHAAP: And you asked who?
MANTI TE'O: I asked her sister, U'i, and U'i was supposed to bring her. But they were having an event for Lennay at that time in their hometown. And she couldn't make it. So she said that Ronaiah was going to bring her. So, she brought her to the hotel, the Ritz Carlton hotel, and that's when I first met her, and that's when I first met, face-to-face, Ronaiah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So who does this Ronaiah present himself as?
MANTI TE'O: Ronaiah presents himself as Lennay's cousin, and the older brother of this little girl, Pookah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What communication had you had with him prior to this?
MANTI TE'O: The only communication I had with Ronaiah prior to this was he, in the beginning, when -- remember I told you when Lennay and I would talk and she'd just leave, she would talk about Ronaiah. And how she and him were like Bonnie and Clyde: That was her cousin, her favorite cousin, and since I didn't know where Lennay was, the only one I knew of that probably knew where Lennay was was Ronaiah. So I was asking him, "Do you know where your cousin went?" And he said, "Yeah, she went to Europe. Or, oh, yeah, I just saw her today, I'll tell her to contact you."
JEREMY SCHAAP: So this is over the course of -- I'm losing the time line. Over a couple of years?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, this is in the beginning.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When you were a sophomore?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, when I was a sophomore.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And Ronaiah was always part of this picture?
MANTI TE'O: No, not always.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I mean, he'd come in and out of the picture?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, he'd come in and out. He was very, very, just, I didn't -- I knew Noa more than I knew Ronaiah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But Ronaiah would get on the phone or you'd text?
MANTI TE'O: No, the only time I'd talk to Ronaiah on the phone was when he was bringing Pookah to the hotel.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did you know about him?
MANTI TE'O: That he was the partner in crime. And that was his little sister that he was bringing.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And that he was another Tuiasosopo.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When you first met him, what?
MANTI TE'O: When he saw it, he said thank you for bringing Pookah with you. It was nothing more.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What kind of interactions did you have with Pookah?
MANTI TE'O: She ran over, gave me a big hug. She brought me a Build-a-Bear that she named Princess La La after Lennay. But she rarely spoke when I met her. While we were at the table, she rarely spoke. The one who mainly spoke was Ronaiah, so she kind of just sat there and was quiet. Sometimes she'd ask me, like, "Can I take a picture with Skylar Diggins?" So I took her up and took a picture with Skylar Diggins and brought her back. Other than that, she was fairly quiet.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I don't know if you're aware, you probably are. You know, your uncle talked about this meeting, and he said he got a weird feeling. Did you get a weird vibe, for lack of a better word, off of Ronaiah?
MANTI TE'O: I didn't because, honestly, I was so focused on the girl. He was, did the most talking, but I was more focused on how she was doing, so glad that she was there, that I wasn't really paying attention to him and what he was saying.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did he approach you at that time about some kind of fund for leukemia research?
MANTI TE'O: He told me the function that U'i had to stay at was a fundraiser for leukemia. That the proceeds were going to go to leukemia research.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did he ask you for money?
MANTI TE'O: No.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Your uncle said that he knew this guy was full of it because he said he helped run the Troy Polamalu football camp, which your uncle actually runs and he'd never heard of him. Did he ever communicate anything to you about his suspicions?
MANTI TE'O: My uncle? He communicated it to my dad, though.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And your dad didn't tell you?
MANTI TE'O: Oh, Dad did. He said, you know, son -- he didn't say that he was suspicious about the guy, he just said that he just didn't -- just like I don't like him like that. He just said your uncle just didn't get a good vibe from him.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What kind of human beings would take pleasure in putting you through this?
MANTI TE'O: I think you should ask who did it. I mean, I don't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So, you're in Orlando for the ESPN/Home Depot college football awards show?
MANTI TE'O: So now we go to the awards and get a call. It's after the awards show.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So what happens? What happens?
MANTI TE'O: I start seeing this girl Alex.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Alex de Pilar?
MANTI TE'O: Del Pilar. And I start to distance myself from the Kekuas. And they start to notice that. And they find, the way that they find out about Alex and I is I went over to Alex's house for Thanksgiving dinner. She and I took a picture. I was in the room with her family, and she and I took a picture, and I guess they got a hold of it. That's when it turned from them being OK with me distancing myself to, like, no. You need to talk. So they would call me and say you can't be with this girl. She's no good for you. And trying to tell me all these things about her that I knew, myself, wasn't true. When they felt that I wasn't budging, because I was telling them, I just want to get to know her, just let me get to know this girl. U'i called my mom and tried to persuade my mom to persuade me to break up with this girl. She was telling my mom about Alex and what she knew and she was a gold digger, and talked to my mom.
I guess from that conversation, she felt that she didn't get her point across. So Dec. 6 happened. I'm lying in my bed, getting ready to go to sleep, and I get a phone call from the same number that U'i always used. Lennay's phone. Answered the phone and said hello. She said, "Hey, man."
Well, she didn't say it was U'i, but she said, "Hey, I've got to tell you something that's very important." And I said, "OK, what is it?" And she said, "Well, I want to wait until after the bowl game." And I said, "It doesn't make any sense that you tell me it's important and then you postpone it to the bowl game."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Five weeks away.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I said, "You have to tell me now because if you don't tell me now, I'm still going to think about it." So she goes through this whole spiel how my family's involved with drugs and like bad people. And we have to hide and make sure that everybody's -- she's giving me this background about their life.
She just basically said "I think you know." And I said, "What do you mean? I don't know anything." She said, "Well, Manti, it's me." That's all she said. And I played stupid for a little bit. I was like, "Oh, I know it's you, U'i . What do you mean?" And she's like, "No, Manti, it's me." She kept going back and forth. "It's me."
I eventually just gave up and said, "Who is me?" And she said, "It's Lennay." So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. How could you do this to me? I ended that conversation by saying, simply, this: "You know what, Lennay, my Lennay died on Sept. 12. I don't know who you are, but Lennay died on Sept. 12th," and that conversation ended.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So what do you think has happened at this point?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. I'm confused. I'm scared. I'm confused. I don't know what's going on.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You think there was a Lennay who never died?
MANTI TE'O: I'm thinking a lot of things; OK. So this could be a prank. She died, and all these guys are trying to pull a prank on me, or is she still alive? What is going on? What's going on?
JEREMY SCHAAP: It was the same voice, clearly?
MANTI TE'O: Same voice.
JEREMY SCHAAP: As Lennay?
MANTI TE'O: As Lennay.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And the U'i voice was slightly different or the same voice?
MANTI TE'O: I took it as a different voice, but when she said it was Lennay, I could relate to it, you know?
JEREMY SCHAAP: It changed?
MANTI TE'O: It didn't necessarily change. Just my outlook of it was like "you do sound like Lennay," you know?
JEREMY SCHAAP: So you're confused, you're angry, you must be trying to figure out exactly what happened. Where does that lead you?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I start trying to do my own thing. I tried to figure out what's right, what is the truth, what's going on? And that's where it gets confusing. She then tells me that, you know, the girl that I pictured, the physical girl, the girl that I've seen in pictures, is not her. She sends me pictures of some other girl, and she says, "That's me." Like that's the Lennay, the real Lennay. "The Lennay that you knew in the pictures I sent you before, that's another girl." Then it turns to "my name's not Lennay. My name's Leah" with the same girl. So I told this girl, you know what? I don't believe you. Send me a picture of that new girl. I'm from Laie, Hawaii, and our hometown center is this. I said send me a picture of you doing this. And she sends me one of this new girl. So I'm even more confused now. I'm just like, OK.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Because it had to be done in real time because it's a date stamp?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, so I'm saying OK. So everything that I've known -- first of all, you're supposedly not dead. Second of all, the Lennay that I slept with on the phone is not the Lennay that I pictured in my head. Then she comes out later and says, well, no, no, no. That was my cousin Leah, who tried to stand up for me because she knew these drug people are still looking for me, are still on my case. So that was my cousin. So forget everything about this Leah girl. That's my cousin. I'm still the Lennay you know. So all these stories are coming at me. So I'm confused beyond anything.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So whoever sent you that picture had to be the person you were talking to?
MANTI TE'O: Correct.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Do you know now who that person was?
MANTI TE'O: No, I don't.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So when do you come to the conclusion that this was all a hoax from the beginning?
MANTI TE'O: I don't. I'm still trying to figure it out at that time. I'm trying to do my own thing. Trying to figure out my way. Trying to answer questions, and I come up to the conclusion after she tells me, no, it's the Lennay that I am, and blah, blah, blah. Because I kept telling her, like, well, the Lennay I know is not you. OK? So like I said before, the Lennay I knew is dead. She died on Sept. 12th. Then she came up with this "no, the Lennay you know is the real Lennay, and that's me." I said, "Well, prove it to me." I said, "Skype me, FaceTime me," and she did the same thing. We would FaceTime, and she'd say, "I can see you. How come you can't see me?" I said, "I can't see you. I see a black screen. I see a black screen." So I figured; OK, this FaceTime thing ain't working.
So I told her, "OK, take another picture. And this time I want you to hold a paper up with your initials, MSMK, which is her initials, the date and you throwing up the sign." And she said, "Well, I can do something -- I can maybe do something on Pookah's birthday," which is supposedly Dec. 21st. And on Dec. 21st --
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why couldn't she do something before then?
MANTI TE'O: She said that since the people are after her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Where's this conversation taking place?
MANTI TE'O: This is like mid-December. And I'm, "OK, so you need to do this." She said, "Well, it will be better if I do it after the bowl game. But I might be able to do something."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why does she care about the bowl game?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. She kept bringing that up. So on Dec. 21st, we haven't talked, because I told her, "Hey, she died. I'm not believing anything until I see it." On Dec. 21st, she text me. She's like, "You want proof, here's the proof." She sends me the picture.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But it doesn't prove anything?
MANTI TE'O: All it shows is that girl that I knew her to be, with a paper with her initials on it, with the date, and with her throwing it up.
JEREMY SCHAAP: People who question your story say, Jack Swarbrick said [Te'o] knew about this hoax on Dec. 6th, yet he continued to talk about his girlfriend in subsequent interviews on Dec. 8, for instance, at the Heisman Trophy ceremony. But you're saying what? It was just unclear to you what was going on?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I didn't know. I didn't know what was going on. For all I knew, she could have been really dead. I was trying to figure it out myself. I wasn't sure myself what was going on.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I went back and looked at the transcript, Jack Swarbrick never says you knew on Dec. 6 that it was a hoax. He only says that you got the phone call on Dec. 6?
MANTI TE'O: Exactly.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So people have made the leap that they shouldn't have?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah. They think that I found out it was a hoax on Dec. 6.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That's what everybody's writing?
MANTI TE'O: No, I got a call saying that she was alive on Dec. 6th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Which explains why you continued to talk about her?
MANTI TE'O: Correct.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But certainly your feelings must have been confused?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, very confused.
JEREMY SCHAAP: The fact that you continue to talk about her, why?
MANTI TE'O: Because I didn't know myself. I didn't know what to believe. All I knew for sure in my head was that she died on Sept. 12th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Were you concerned that if you started changing your story in interviews then this would all come out?
MANTI TE'O: No, because I wasn't -- I wasn't really sure. I was confused. I didn't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You thought there might have been a Lennay Kekua that really did die on Dec. 12?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, there were a whole bunch of possibilities going through my head. She could have died. This could be U'i trying to pull a stunt on me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You thought you might be betraying Lennay by suggesting -- by not talking about her?
MANTI TE'O: Oh, no, not really.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Or by saying no, she didn't really die, because you didn't know that she had really died?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I didn't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What was it that led you to go to Brian Kelly on Dec. 26?
MANTI TE'O: When I told my parents.
JEREMY SCHAAP: First you tell your parents.
MANTI TE'O: So when I got back from the awards tour, right when I got back, I told Alex what happened.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Your girlfriend?
MANTI TE'O: Then I told Robby, my best friend, what happened. The night of Dec. 10th, I told Alex and Robby, and they both told me you should tell your parents. So I said, well, I'm going to try to figure this out, what the heck is going on. I said I'm going to try to figure it out myself. So eventually when she sent me that picture Dec. 21st, that confused the heck out of me. That's when I kind of felt for the first time that this girl might be alive. That's when I was like; OK, I've got to take this. I told my mom Dec. 24th, on Christmas Eve, and I told my dad on Christmas Day. He called my two uncles, close family friends, uncle Keith they drove an hour to my house on Christmas night. That's when they told us, the first thing you should do is notify Coach. That night, I called Coach Diaco first, early in the morning, it was like 5 in the morning South Bend time. And let him know about it. Then I called Coach Kelly. And before I talk to Coach Kelly, and Coach D already relayed the message to Coach Kelly
JEREMY SCHAAP: So the light goes off Dec. 23rd, but you don't tell your mom [until] Dec. 24th, why?
MANTI TE'O: Because I wanted to make sure that, when I told them, I told them face to face. I didn't tell them over the phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When did you go home?
MANTI TE'O: I got home the 23rd, I think.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why didn't you want to tell her on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: Because that's some big news to tell somebody over the phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Let me go back for just one second, because I think it's a remarkable scene: Here you are at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. There is a possibility, pretty good one, that you're going to become the first purely defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, the first Notre Dame player to win it since Tim Brown more than a quarter of a century ago. Two days after getting that phone call, where's your head at this point?
MANTI TE'O: To be honest with you, it was on the Heisman ceremony. I was enjoying it with my family.
JEREMY SCHAAP: This wasn't weighing on you like a ton of bricks?
MANTI TE'O: Not really.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It never occurred to you that it could explode into something like this?
MANTI TE'O: Not really. For me, I would think about it, but I was so engaged in what was happening at the time that I didn't, it didn't really -- it wasn't on the top of my mind. It wasn't something that distracted me from all that was going on. JEREMY SCHAAP: So you go home, and how do you break the news to your parents?
MANTI TE'O: I was so scared to tell my parents, I asked my best friend to come over and be there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Which best friend is this?
MANTI TE'O: Robby.
JEREMY SCHAAP: OK.
MANTI TE'O: So he comes over, and my mom comes in, and my mom's furious.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why did you tell [your] mom first?
MANTI TE'O: It's just, Mom's easier to talk to than Dad. So, Mom said, "You need to tell Dad." So I gathered up the courage, and I said I had to tell Dad on Christmas Day. And I said, "I've got news to tell you. Lennay might be alive." And that's where we started making moves.
JEREMY SCHAAP: At this point, it's Dec. 24th. You still think Lennay is alive but she's been dishonest with you?
MANTI TE'O: Lennay?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yes. You don't think Lennay doesn't exist. You think that she's some crazy, manipulative wacko?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I'm thinking she's been hiding this whole time and has been watching me, watching every game and has watched me kind of bear this whole thing. And was pretending to be somebody else.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And it makes the jealousy thing kind of make sense?
MANTI TE'O: Yes. And the whole full-court press.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So you tell Kelly. First you tell your D-coordinator, then you tell Kelly. What was the conversation like [with] Brian Kelly?
MANTI TE'O: Coach Kelly just said she's dead. That's how we're going to go about it. She's dead. When you come in, we'll talk about it. That's all he said.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When do you meet the team?
MANTI TE'O: I meet Coach Kelly, Mr. Swarbrick and Coach Diaco right when I get into South Bend, which was the 27th or 28th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What do they say?
MANTI TE'O: They're confused, too. But they said if we're going to launch an investigation, we're going to try to find answers to all of our questions. So that's what they did.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And they questioned you?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, they questioned me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who questioned you?
MANTI TE'O: They all did. They just asked simple questions. What did she say? What did she tell you? When did you find out?
JEREMY SCHAAP: When you say "all of them," you mean Swarbrick?
MANTI TE'O: Swarbrick, Kelly and Coach Diaco. The investigator, all she asked was just for a picture and any evidence that I had.
JEREMY SCHAAP: She never interviewed you?
MANTI TE'O: No, she never interviewed me again.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Now, when does it hit you that this is like -- that this is something that could hurt you?
MANTI TE'O: It doesn't. I'm still trying to figure out what's going on. In a way I think "OK, if this gets out, it's going to be big. It's going to be big." But in my head, I was like, "What do they have against me? They don't have anything against me. Why would they come out? They don't have anything on me."
JEREMY SCHAAP: You mean the perpetrators?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, they don't have anything to use against me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You haven't done anything?
MANTI TE'O: I haven't done anything, you know. Like what?
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did it ever occur to you that somebody else would bring the story out?
MANTI TE'O: No. Because from my point of view what they told me they were trying to hide and be incognito because these guys were looking for them. She always told me after, like, she would say, "I've got a job to do. I have to do a job, a drug job." She would always say, "I'll tell you the truth on 16th. I'll tell you the truth on the 16th. You'll know everything on the 16th."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Jan. 16th?
MANTI TE'O: Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When is the last time you spoke to any of these people?
MANTI TE'O: On 16th.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Of?
MANTI TE'O: January.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Two days ago? After the story came out or before?
MANTI TE'O: Before the story came out.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That day?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What kind of conversations were you having with these people over the course of the last month?
MANTI TE'O: I was trying to figure out what's going on. They actually went to Miami and were in Miami during the national championship. They went to Miami.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who is "they"?
MANTI TE'O: This group. Lennay, her sister Jean supposedly, this boy named Mateo. And her friend named Kat. They said they stayed at the Hilton Beverly and they were down there for the game. Well, they got in on Saturday. Saturday, they got in on Saturday. And I told her: "OK. If you're in, come see me at the hotel, come to the hotel." I told them, "You need to be here before 11 because the curfew at that time was 11." Well, obviously, they purposely showed up after 11, when I was at curfew. And the reason I know they showed up is because they took pictures of our hotel the front door, the lobby. I know that whoever -- I would say, "Go up. I just want to see you. Look at you square in the face and just be done with this thing. Just erase everything so I know the truth." They said, "Well, they asked me for ID cards down here, and we can't get up." Her sister texts me and says, "You know what, Manti, we're waiting for Lennay over here. Can you please tell her, I don't know if you're with her, but can you please tell her to hurry up, please. We're waiting, and Mateo is in here and he's drunk, and he said he's going to go look for her." At that point, I was like, "You know, whatever." I hung up the phone.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I don't mean to make light of this in any way, Manti. But you've demonstrated a remarkable degree of patience with these people. Why?
MANTI TE'O: It was all to find out the answer. What the answer was. Because I needed to know. No matter how much patience, I needed to clear my head of what was going on. The only way to clear my head is if I knew what the truth was. Whether she was real, whether she wasn't real. I needed to know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Why would they go to Miami?
MANTI TE'O: She said that she wanted to be there. She said, "I was there from the beginning, and I wanted to see you until the very end."
JEREMY SCHAAP: Knowing it was a hoax now, and knowing they never went to see you, why would they go to Miami?
MANTI TE'O: They went to the game.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did you get them tickets?
MANTI TE'O: No. They said that Mateo's family got the tickets.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And there is still no play for money?
MANTI TE'O: Nope. Nope.
JEREMY SCHAAP: And you spoke to them less than 72 hours ago?
MANTI TE'O: Yep.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who was it that you spoke to Wednesday?
MANTI TE'O: Ronaiah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Ronaiah. And what did he have to say?
MANTI TE'O: Before that, they sent me a message on Twitter because I cut connections with them.
JEREMY SCHAAP: A direct message?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, a direct message on Twitter: Hey, it's the 16th. You wanted to know the truth. And I've found peace with you knowing the truth. I have two people that I want to come clean with and that's you and your family. I'm not going to say anything to the press. I just want you to know the truth. And God bless, and blah, blah, blah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who was that person you talked to all those nights on the phone?
MANTI TE'O: Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who are they?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one.
JEREMY SCHAAP: One of the two?
MANTI TE'O: One of two guys and a girl.
JEREMY SCHAAP: So it wasn't the same person playing the role of Lennay every night?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did you say to Ronaiah?
MANTI TE'O: Nothing.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What do you now know about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo that you didn't know two days ago?
MANTI TE'O: After the story hit, multiple people [saying] that he's done it to me contacted me. And said hey, he's done the same thing to me with the same girl, with the same story. And if you need any help, I'm here.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How did they contact you?
MANTI TE'O: One of the guys I know, that I know of. One of the other girls contacted my cousin Shiloah and said I heard about your cousin, and my boyfriend had an experience with Ronaiah, and her boyfriend is Ronaiah's second cousin.
JEREMY SCHAAP: In, in fact, there are all these people that have been similarly due processed, and you use the same identity, why didn't any of them contact you with all of the media about Lennay Kekua that was out there? Her name was in Sports Illustrated, it was in ESPN, it was on CBS news?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Is it possible they never saw it? Or did they just feel like I'm not getting into this?
MANTI TE'O: I have no idea. Some of them said that they didn't hear the story. And when they did hear the story, it was like, oh, my gosh. That's exactly what happened to me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Seriously? I mean, you'd think that somebody would want to reach out if they saw that.
MANTI TE'O: You know, fortunately they're reaching out now.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's not the same prior to the 16th. There are a couple of things, Manti, just, I want to ask you, because people said, all right, here are things that don't make sense. And I want to ask you myself. I want to hear it from your mouth. There is a story that's in the South Bend Tribune, which was one of the most comprehensive accounts of your relationship with Lennay Kekua. In it, it describes how you guys physically touched each other and how there was this in-person meeting. Where did that come from?
MANTI TE'O: I think it's all to make the story better.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You didn't tell Eric Hansen [of the South Bend Tribune] that you had touched her hand at some meeting?
MANTI TE'O: No. I'd never told anybody that I've touched her hand.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did you ever tell anybody -- did you ever give anyone a detailed account of some kind of a meeting with her face-to-face?
MANTI TE'O: I gave people, like I said, kind of nonpunctual.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Nonspecific?
MANTI TE'O: Nonspecific kind of stories.
JEREMY SCHAAP: One thing I want to clarify. You said it makes sense that you had contact with are Ronaiah Tuiasosopo occasionally over the years over Twitter?
MANTI TE'O: Uh-huh.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You wished him happy birthday, I think some kind of a Twitter message that is in one of the stories somewhere. But you had never seen him in person before the USC game?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, never.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You know now who that little girl is?
MANTI TE'O: No. I only know what I've known is that it's his little sister.
JEREMY SCHAAP: It's really his little sister. When he met you, he said it was his little sister, and you still believed that girl to be his little sister?
MANTI TE'O: Well, I don't have anything --
JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah, I didn't know, because -- When you look back at the way you presented this story to the nation, to multiple reporters, how do you view your actions?
MANTI TE'O: Sincere. Everything they asked me, I responded to it. How I felt, just expressing what I was going through and just trying to give them a description, you know, of what it's like.
JEREMY SCHAAP: There are a couple of other things that I just wanted to get to. You know, the account of the exact time in which her casket closed on the day of her funeral. That was reported. Where would they have gotten that from?
MANTI TE'O: Me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Who told you when it closed? Not that it closed at 9 a.m.?
MANTI TE'O: Their sister did.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Which sister?
MANTI TE'O: U'i.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Just to be clear. The South Bend Tribune said you guys exchanged meaningful glance, your hands touched in 2009 game against Stanford. Where would [they] have gotten that?
MANTI TE'O: That I don't know. I didn't know Lennay back in 2009 at the Stanford game, and that I know because my grandparents were there. My grandfather and my grandmother. And that was the only people that I remember looking forward to seeing. That changed in 2011.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Could it have been the 2011 game?
MANTI TE'O: It could have been, because that would have been the only time that it could have happened, because that's when I knew her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: But you might have -- is there any way you could have told this reporter that you had actually physically touched her?
MANTI TE'O: No.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Other than Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Pookah, did you ever meet anyone else who represented themself as being a relative of Lennay?
MANTI TE'O: Yes, I met Ronaiah's dad after the game
JEREMY SCHAAP: None of the other sisters?
MANTI TE'O: Nope.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did you think was meant when a couple of guys were [saying] this week via Twitter, including the Cardinals fullback, "Hey, I know Lennay." Where does that come from?
MANTI TE'O: I don't know. Because I have never met her.
JEREMY SCHAAP: The story in SI by Pete Thamel, and I think you saw this, but it said a cousin, one of your cousins, introduced you to Lennay.
MANTI TE'O: No. He might have been referring to Shiloah.. And how I got in contact with Lennay through Shiloah.
JEREMY SCHAAP: That's what he means?
MANTI TE'O: Most likely.
JEREMY SCHAAP: This is such a horrible thing to do to someone. And Jack Swarbrick was crying the other night, virtually crying, about how people would want to hurt you in this way and how cruel it is. As the victim here, in your words, what sense can you make of any of this?
MANTI TE'O: I was fully committed to someone who is not real. Who is not what they said they were. I don't know what to say of it. It's taken a toll.
JEREMY SCHAAP: How did it affect you the night you played Alabama?
MANTI TE'O: I wouldn't say it affected me.
JEREMY SCHAAP: I know you don't want to say it. But how could it not?
MANTI TE'O: When you're stuck in big game like that, you can't let it affect you, no matter how much it's weighing on you. In a big game like that, there's people that depend on you to perform. And no matter what you're going through, you need to perform. So in that case, I can
JEREMY SCHAAP: Did you see the Shelley Smith story on ESPN, did you hear about it.
MANTI TE'O: Yes, I heard about it.
JEREMY SCHAAP: When that came out, what was your reaction?
MANTI TE'O: I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this.
JEREMY SCHAAP: There was one line in the Deadspin story, an unnamed friend of one of the sources said I'm 80 percent certain that Manti was in on this. For the record, once again, were you in any way a part of this?
MANTI TE'O: No, never.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Never?
MANTI TE'O: Ever. Not ever would I be part of this.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Was it even a scenario in which you were legitimately duped at the beginning and then you had to keep telling the lie because you told it once?
MANTI TE'O: No.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What did it mean to you to see Notre Dame's athletic director up there on national TV defending you the way he did, adamantly, completely the way he did.
MANTI TE'O: It meant a lot to me, honestly. Now it's my turn to defend him. And by the truth and by the facts that I have, hopefully it defends him. Because that's what Notre Dame is all about. And that's why I went there. And I'll forever be proud to say that I came from there.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Do you have any sense of how this controversy might affect your professional prospects?
MANTI TE'O: That I don't have any control of. What I do have control of is what I do from here on out. And that's train, and train and train, so that when the combine comes, I'm ready, let the teams make that decision.
JEREMY SCHAAP: Will you be able to focus on your training?
MANTI TE'O: After this.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You mean after this interview?
MANTI TE'O: Yes.
JEREMY SCHAAP: What do you want to see happen to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo?
MANTI TE'O: To be honest with you, it doesn't seem real. I hope he learns. I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.
JEREMY SCHAAP: You're going to be OK?
MANTI TE'O: I'll be OK. As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine.