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Manti Te'o Speaks: The Jeremy Schaap Interview

Te'o sat down with tWWL's Jeremy Schaap for 2 1/2 hours late Friday night to discuss the Lennay Kekua hoax.

Manti Alone In A Crowd
Manti Alone In A Crowd
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A little more than 48 hours after Deadspin broke the story of the Lennay Kekua hoax, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o sat down with Jeremy Schaap at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. There were no television cameras present for the interview. There was also a lawyer present.

Following the 2 1/2 hour interview Schaap was able to cover most of the big ticket questions that everyone has been asking over the course of multiple short segments on Sports Center late Friday night.

The full details are available by ESPN with this TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW.

Below is a summary of what Te'o told Schaap.

-Manti Te'o answered every question that Schaap posed. Schaap elaborated on this in his intro.

"He was comprehensive, he went back to the beginning of this story. He explained himself. He explained as fully as I think he could what happened, what he says happened to him. As I said every question was answered. He admitted to a couple of mistakes along the way, including lying to his father on one occasion. That led to some inconsistencies that have been pointed out in the media the last 48 hours."

-From there Schaap addressed a few of the initial big questions and offered some quotes.

Schaap: "For the record once gain were you in any way part of this?"

Te'o: "No, never."

Schaap: "Never?"

Teo: "Never. Not ever."

-Schaap then moved on to discussing the way that Te'o had spoken about Kekua in interviews over the course of the 2012 season.

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."

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."

-When asked Schaap referred to Te'o as being "composed" and "self assured" throughout the interview.

-Schaap then went on to discuss the timeline of the relationship.

  • The relationship between Te'o and Kekua got started on Facebook when Te'o was a Sophomore at Notre Dame.
  • There were then occasional contacts over the course of the following year. These contacts were both via Facebook and phone conversations. It was friendly but very basic "How are you" friendly type stuff but not romantic.
  • During that time Te'o contacted other people that Kekua had told him that she knew and they all "verified" knowing her.

Schaap: "These were apparently people who in some way or another were also duped."

  • The relationship didn't really start to grow until the Purdue game in 2011.
  • Te'o tried to communicate with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions but the person on the other end of the line was always just a "black box."
  • Their relationship wasn't steady the entire time that he knew her. Their communication was on again, off again, for quite some time. It began to escalate after Kekua told him that her father died. At that point Te'o became "a shoulder to cry on."
  • The relationship became significantly more intense on April 28th 2012 when he found out that she had supposedly been injured in a car accident in Los Angeles that put her into a coma. Both a cousin and a sibling of Kekua informed Te'o of the accident and Kekua's condition. Te'o was then told that Kekua was discovered to have Leukemia while still recovering from the accident in late June/ early July.

-Schaap asked Te'o why he never went to see her in the hospital.

Te'o: "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school.

  • From April 28th when the car accident happened to September 12th when he thought that she had died Te'o and Kekua were "inseparable via phone."
  • When Te'o found out that his grandmother had passed away on September 12th he was upset and angry. Kekua "was trying to be there" for him and he didn't want to talk to her. The last thing she told him was "just know I love you."
  • As we now know Kekua supposedly passed away 6 hours later.
  • After Kekua passed away a distraught Te'o stayed in contact with her family.
  • After getting the resurrection phone call from Kekua on December 6th Te'o was "utterly confused." This was when she told him a story about how she had faked her own death to hide from drug dealers. In short Te'o was very uncertain about Kekua and whether or not she had ever really existed. This was obviously further complicated by the fact that he was once again hearing her voice on the telephone. We also know from Jack Swarbrick's statements on Wednesday night that this phone call was not the only contact with Te'o. These calls persisted for a little while. To me this makes the following more plausible.

Schaap: "I know it sounds fantastical, but you have to believe me he was very convincing the way that he laid this out. That he was not fully convinced that Lennay Kekua did not exist until two days ago when he heard from Ronaiah Tuiasasopo." "Manti Te'o told me that Tuiasasopo called him two days ago and told him that he was behind the hoax. He apologized, he showed me Twitter messages apparently from Tuiasasopo apologizing for perpetrating this hoax on him, embarrassing him, etc."

-Te'o expounded on this by saying that Tuiasasopo told him that he was one of three perpetrators along with another man and one woman. Te'o said he did not know the identity of the other two people. We have to assume that the woman was the one portraying Lennay on the telephone.

-Schaap opened the second segment with this description of Te'o

"I thought he explained himself well. He laid out everything that had happened in his relationship with Lennay Kekua, and I think there is a lot in there that will surprise people in terms of what he knew and when he knew it." "He was very relieved, he told me at the end of it, that he had a chance to tell his story. He said that he's been avoiding a lot of media coverage for the last 48 hours which is understandable." "It was clear that he felt better having unburdened himself of this. In the sense that he felt all along that people would come to believe him when he had the chance to fully explain himself. He had a couple of days to think about it and he knew this was the right thing to do."

-Schaap went on to discus his observations of Te'o and some of the other things that Te'o said during the interview.

-When Te'o first got that call on December 6th from someone that he believed had died he didn't immediately believe that this was a hoax.

-Jack Swarbrick mentioned on Wednesday night that Manti Te'o got the phone call on December 6th, but Swarbrick didn't say that at that time Manti Te'o understood this to be a hoax. The story about the drug dealers and needing to lay low for a few months prevented him from being 100% sure that Lennay Kekua had never existed. Te'o wasn't entirely sure that it was a Hoax until two days ago.

-Te'o recounted that for months on end while Kekua was supposedly in a hospital recovering form the car accident, then lukemia that he literally fell asleep with his phone every night so that he could hear her breathing. During that time he was told by other people on the phone (supposed family members) how she was doing on several occasions. There were multiple role players in this ruse.

Schaap: "Maybe I sound too convinced, but I'm just telling you the way that Manti Te'o told me the story I came away finding it very believable."

-Te'o also also pointed out that there were obviously some inconsistencies like his father Brian Te'o saying that Manti had met Kekua in person. Te'o said that he had lied to his father about having met Kekua in Hawai'i around New Year's 2012. Kekua was supposed to be in Hawai'i at the time and Te'o left his parents house to meet her. On his way out of the house he told his parents that he was going to meet Lennay. When Te'o got to the place that they were supposed to meet she never showed up. When Te'o got home he never told his parents that she didn't show because he didn't want them to think that there was "something strange in the relationship." Instead he just masked his doubts and told them that he had seen Lennay.

Schaap: That is how it came to be that his father told people that Manti had met, in person, Lennay Kekua.

-Schaap on the way that Te'o described how he spoke about Kekua in interviews after he believed that she was dead.

Schaap: "He said that when he described here as the the love of his life he meant it 100% although they had never met. But he did mislead people by saying he met her. He did so because he knew how crazy it would sound that he felt this deeply about someone he had never met."

-Te'o told Schaap that he and "Lennay" had come up with a ritual where every day they discussed scripture via text message. Brian and Ottilla Te'o also participated in what turned into four way discussions about these scriptures via text.

-Schaap also explained that Te'o wanted to do the interview off camera so that it would be in a more "intimate setting" without the lights, extra people in the room etc. Schaap admitted that tWWL would have preferred that the interview be on camera but they respected the wishes of Te'o.

-Te'o disputed the theory that he is naive about romantic relationships. He even admitted that he had a girlfriend this fall after Kekua died.

Schaap: "He said that he got sucked into this because he felt he was talking to someone who he shared a lot with. Background. Samoan background, culture, she understood the language, she spoke it better than he did." "This person, whoever it was made this emotional connection with him."

-No doubt her supposed Mormon faith didn't hurt either.

-The relationship definitely intensified after Kekua came out of the coma.

-Te'o understood Ronaiah Tuiasasopo to be a cousin of Lennay Kekua.

-Te'o met Tuiasasopo for the first and only time when Tuiasasopo showed up at the Notre Dame team hotel in Los Angeles the weekend of the Notre Dame vs. USC game in November. Tuiasasopo brought a 9 year old girl that Te'o had been led to believe was Tuiasasopo's daughter and Kekua's niece. This was the meeting where Manti's uncle was present and caught Tuiasasopo in a lie because Tuisasopo told them that he runs Troy Polamalu's football camp. Manti's uncle actually runs that camp. Manti's uncle then passed his suspicions about Tuiasasopo being a shady character to Manti's father Brian.

-A group of people related to Tuiasasopo also showed up at the Notre Dame team hotel in Miami prior to the BCS Championship game. Te'o admitted that this negatively affected his play against Alabama. Distracted? That might be an understatement.

-A quote from the December 6th resurrection phone call from Kekua to Te'o.

"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."

-Schaap asked Te'o what he thought should happen to Tuiasasopo.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "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."

He added: "I'll be OK. As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine."

Despite everything that Tuiasasopo has put him through, Te'o remains Te'o.

That concludes the story of this now very famous, and perhaps very overblown, affair according to Manti Te'o.

There will be lingering questions over the course of the coming days, weeks and months. Who is this woman that was on the other end of the phone with Te'o? He obviously developed what he perceived to be a very real connection with her and she's out there somewhere. She's real. Did she actually make a connection with Te'o as well? Was she just playing a role? Will he ever know who she is? Will we? Does it matter?

These people obviously went to great lengths to concoct and execute a very elaborate scheme that Te'o fell victim to.

This entire affair has been a rare mix of bizarre, captivating, and sad. Knowing all that we do at this point I sincerely feel bad for Te'o. He fell victim to a very elaborate ruse. Now that Te'o has spoken I sincerely hope that he can find some closure and move on. I hope that we can too.