As the surreal story continues to gain media attention, many people are trying to wrap their heads around the fact that Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend never existed, and try to determine fact from fiction in the timeline of events.
Aside from a statement issued yesterday, Manti Te’o has remained silent. It is his story that captivated audiences throughout the 2012 season, and it is worth a closer look on how we got to this shocking ending.
As the story was told. Manti Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend Lennay both died the week of the Michigan State game in September. That was the story at least.
Manti played against the Spartans, but many wondered if he would go home after that. But he said that's not what Lennay wanted.
"One day she made me promise---she said babe if anything happens to me, you stay over there and that you'll play and you'll honor me through the way that you play,” Manti told the press on October 3rd.
As the story was told--Manti says the casket for Lennay was closed at noon Eastern Time the day of the game. The defensive superstar played one of his best games of the season that night, and the Notre Dame nation rallied around him.
”I felt a sense of peace. You know that, I had so many people that cared about Manti instead of number five,” he said.
Shortly thereafter Manti became a larger than life figure. In an interview with NewsCenter 16 on October 12th, Manti's parents gave a ton of credit to a person who they and their son apparently never met in person.
“There are people that came into his life that helped to shape him. And I have to mention his girlfriend Lennay. I mean she really helped him this past year to take that next step into becoming a truly remarkable young man,” his mom Ottilla said with pride.
Manti's parents were in Florida for the ESPN Awards on December 6th, the very morning Manti received the jarring phone call which allegedly revealed the hoax.
“From a number he recognized as having been that he had associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person’s whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to who told him that she was in fact not dead,” said Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick at a press conference on January 16th.
Swarbrick went on to say that Manti waited 20 days to tell Notre Dame coaches. But the question remained, why did he wait so long?
“He wanted to talk to his parents, he wanted to talk to them in person,” said Swarbrick Wednesday night, “he went home for Christmas break and, that’s Manti.”
That explanation from Swarbrick does not explain one glaring issue: Manti was with his parents at the award ceremony the day he received the phone call and the days following at the Heisman Trophy presentation. Why he wouldn’t say something to them then is something only Manti can answer.
It appears that Manti had an interviewed scheduled with ESPN Thursday afternoon, January 17th, and that interview was set up before the Deadspin article was going to come out. NewsCenter 16 was told Manti’s representatives were the ones who then canceled the ESPN interview.