NEW YORK (AP) - Manti Te'o maintains he was never involved in creating a hoax about a dead girlfriend that exposed one of the college football season's most inspiring stories as a bizarre fabrication.
In an off-camera interview with ESPN on Friday, the Notre Dame linebacker said: "When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this."
Te'o also told ESPN that the person who created the fake online girlfriend has apologized to him for the hoax. Te'o said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old who lives in California, contacted him two days ago and confessed to the prank.
Manti Te‘o, shown after a game in November, was interviewed by ESPN on Friday.
AP file photo
Deadspin.com reported Wednesday that the Heisman Trophy finalist's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, not only didn't die but, in fact, never existed. Te'o released a statement later that day, saying he had been humiliated and hurt by a "sick joke," but the Punahou School graduate had laid low since until Friday's interview at the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he is preparing for the NFL draft. ESPN said a public relations consultant was with him.
Skeptics have questioned statements from Te'o and Notre Dame, wondering why the Walter Camp and Maxwell award winner failed to mention he never met his girlfriend face-to-face, or tell the school about the ruse until Dec. 26 - nearly three weeks after officials say Te'o learned he had been fooled about Kekua, who supposedly died of leukemia during the season but, it turns out, was not a real person.
Deadspin also reported Te'o and Tuiasosopo knew each other - which has led to questions about Te'o's involvement in the hoax.