Updated: Manti Te’o admits ‘catering’ his stories about Kekua


Two days after Deadspin reported that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o who supposedly passed away last September, was a hoax, Te’o broke his silence to ESPN in a two and a half hour off-camera interview.

As one would imagine, Te’o denied playing any sort of role in the hoax. Here are highlights of what ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has reported so far:

  • Te’o says he never had any part in the hoax and never made anything up to help his Heisman candidacy. 
  • Te’o did, however, say he lied to his father about having met Kekua. Te’o confessed that he “kind of catered [his] stories” about Kekua to suggest that they had met.
  • Te’o claimed “Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing.” When asked who they were, Te’o replied “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
  • Te’o says he was never asked for money, but Kekua once requested his checking account number to send him money. Te’o did not give her the number.
  • Apparently confirming a CBSSports report released earlier Friday evening, Te’o said he tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and Facetime on several occasions, but that he only saw a “black box” on the other end.
  • Te’o said that he began contact with Kekua on Facebook his freshman year. Things “got serious” on April 28, the day he was told she’d been in a car crash. The relationship is described by Te’o as being intermittent.
  • When asked why he never visited Kekua in the hospital, Te’o replied “It never really crossed my mind. I don’t know. I was in school.”
  • Te’o claims he and Kekua got in an argument when she called him after his grandmother passed away. “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.’ “
  • Te’o told ESPN that, until two days ago, he was not fully convinced Kekua didn’t exist. That’s when Te’o said he received an apology from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to be behind the hoax and Kekua’s cousin, according to Te’o. (A note: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in Wednesday’s press conference that Te’o was the victim of a hoax and that the university handed the information over to a PI firm that returned a report on Jan. 4.)
  • According to Te’o, a group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at Notre Dame’s team hotel for the BCS National championship game.
  • The first time Te’o said he met  Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Deadspin reported that Te’o and Tuiasosopo “definitely knew each other” but how was unclear.

There is also an interesting read from the USA Today which was published late Friday night. The paper reports that the cousin of Tuiasosopo faced many parallels in her life similar to Kekua, including a battle with leukemia.

Earlier today, “Outside the Lines” spoke with three people who believed Tuiasosopo was in fact orchestrating a hoax on Te’o, with one person claiming he confessed to the act to her in December. Later in the afternoon, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Kekua (or, a voice speaking as Kekua) told Te’o via telephone on Dec. 6 during the college football awards show that she had faked her death to hide from drug dealers.

Entire NFL showed up to Penn State’s Pro Day and a WWE scout did too

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All the movers and shakers in the NFL world descended upon Happy Valley this week to watch top five pick Saquon Barkley and others work out at Penn State’s Pro Day.

As much as the Nittany Lions made sure to publicize the fact that all 32 NFL teams were in attendance, the school was nothing but detailed when noting which scouts were on hand for 40 yard dashes and agility drills. One interesting name was on that list however and it wasn’t the scout from the CFL but one from the… WWE?

As good as Barkley and the rest of Penn State’s early draft picks were in college, it may be a more intriguing draft story to find out who the WWE is scouting among the crop of recent Nittany Lions. Former college football players have found plenty of success in the WWE over the years and it probably isn’t too surprising that the wrestling conglomerate is eyeing the sport as a minor league farm system for real if they’re sending scouts to Pro Days now.

Heck, it’s probably only a matter of time before there’s a wrestling/football combine hitting the airwaves not long after the NFL edition takes place in Indianapolis. The XFL reboot isn’t going to sprout up from nothing after all.

Iowa basketball player making move to football, although his gridiron destination is unknown

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Iowa basketball’s loss could be Iowa football’s gain — maybe.

In a press release, it was announced that Ahmad Wagner has decided to leave the Hawkeyes men’s hoops program “to train and get my body into football shape so I can be ready for when I decide where I will finish my athletic and academic goals.” The 6-7, 235-pound Wagner played three years of basketball at the Big Ten school, starting 25 of the 96 games in which he played.

Below is Wagner’s statement on his decision, released through the university’s athletic department:

I have had recent discussions with my family and the coaching staff, and ultimately decided to leave the Hawkeye basketball program and end my college basketball career so I can finish my collegiate eligibility playing football. A person of strong faith, I am following God’s plan and I am eager for this next chapter. I leave the Iowa men’s basketball team with new friendships and incredible memories that I will forever treasure. I want to thank coach McCaffery, staff, and teammates for helping me grow both as a basketball player and person.

“My plan now is to train and get my body into football shape so I can be ready for when I decide where I will finish my athletic and academic goals. Thank-you Hawkeye nation for your support and welcoming me when I first stepped onto campus.

If Wagner opts to remain at UI and plays for the football Hawkeyes, he would have two years of eligibility that he could use beginning with the 2018 season.  The same goes for a move to an FCS program.  If he were to opt for another FBS school, however, he’d have to sit out the 2018 season, which would leave him with one year of football eligibility to use in 2019.

Wagner played one year of high school football, helping to lead Wayne High School to the Div. 1 championship game in the Ohio state playoffs his senior season.  As a wide receiver that year, he caught 58 passes for 1,028 yards and 17 touchdowns in earning first-team all-state honors.

According to the LandOf10.com’s Scott Dochterman, Kentucky offered Wagner a football scholarship while Ohio State was interested in him as a football player as well.

Lane Kiffin slaps FAU QB Chris Robison with ‘day-to-day suspension’

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Chris Robison‘s time in Norman ended in controversy. As he gets set to begin his quest to become Florida Atlantic’s starting quarterback, Robison is again mired in a bit of a kerfuffle.

As FAU kicked off spring practice Tuesday, Lane Kiffin confirmed that Robison has been indefinitely suspended from his football program.  The only reason given was the standard unspecified violation of team rules.

One sliver of light amongst the latest off-field cloud for Robison is that the suspension trigger seems to be relatively minor in nature as the head coach said it could be lifted at any time.

“[He’s] not doing things right off the field and not just that he hurt himself, but he hurt his team,” Kiffin said by way of the Palm Beach Post. “Like we just told our players, you got choices; we can’t make the choices for you. If you don’t want to make the right choices, [there are] punishments for them.

“I think our punishments are a bit more severe than most people would be, but we want to teach our guys they gotta do everything right.”

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program.  In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.

Robison and De'Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport.  Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa injures thumb on throwing hand in spring practice opener

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This is not exactly the most optimal way to open the spring for Nick Saban and Alabama.

Shortly before seven p.m. ET this evening, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, who originally committed to play his last season of college football at Alabama, announced on Twitter that he will instead move on to Washington State.  Not long after that, after the Crimson Tide had completed their first practice of the spring, Saban confirmed that Tua Tagovailoa sustained an injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand.  Specifically how he sustained the injury wasn’t clear.

The rising sophomore will be taken to Birmingham for further evaluation; just how long he’ll be sidelined remains to be seen.

Jalen Hurts started every game but one at quarterback the past two seasons, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in that span.  He was under center for the national championship game loss to Clemson, and was in the same spot for this year’s title game against Georgia until a 13-0 halftime deficit compelled Saban to pull the trigger on a change.

And the rest, as they say, is history, as Tagovailoa played a significant role in a second-half comeback that was capped by the true freshman’s game-winning touchdown pass in the first overtime.  Even as it seems obvious to those on the outside that this is Tagovailoa’s team moving forward, given how much more advanced the backup is in the passing game than the erstwhile starter, Saban is not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-time change at the position.  In fact, the head coach even stated that he’s open to playing both quarterbacks.

Minshew, who started five games at East Carolina last season, was viewed as experienced insurance in case Hurts decided to transfer.  Or, if Tagovailoa suffered an injury.