Manti Te'o, the University of Notre Dame linebacker embroiled in a dead girlfriend hoax scandal, has denied ongoing speculation that he knowingly played a role in the hoax for sympathy. He also revealed that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the suspected mastermind behind the hoax, has since apologized to him personally.
"I wasn't faking it...I wasn't part of this," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap during an off-camera interview. "Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing. I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."
The 21-year-old Heisman Trophy finalist recently made national headlines after it was revealed on Jan. 16 that his supposedly dead girlfriend, Stanford student Lennay Kekua, never actually existed. Te'o had cried to media outlets claiming that he suffered the loss of both his grandmother and Kekua within the span of one day in September, drawing public sympathy however it was eventually revealed to be a hoax.
"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o told ESPN, although he has so far only identified Tuiasosopo. "I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."
Te'o claims that Tuiasosopo, an aspiring "The Voice" contestant, reached out to him just days ago via social networking site Twitter to apologize for the bizarre hoax. The star athlete reportedly showed Schaap a series of direct messages received from Tuiasosopo which prove that he was a victim of the hoax.
"When [people] hear the facts, they'll know. They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this," Te'o said.
Te'o, whose long-term relationship with Kekua only ever occurred online, was reportedly equally as shocked as the public when it was revealed that she never existent. Kekua was eventually revealed to be Diane O'Meara, a 23-year-old California marketing executive, who has never met Te'o. She is said to be shaken after learning that she was reportedly the victim of identity theft.
Critics began to question the incident when Te'o refused to miss any football games despite claiming to have lost his beloved girlfriend to leukemia. He claimed that he had promised Kekua to play even if tragedy ever struck and during his next game he had a record 12 tackles, leading Notre Dame to an inspiring 20-3 win.
"We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her," Te'o said in a recent statement obtained by TMZ.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," he added.