Now I’ve said multiple times that I hate anonymous quotes. If you’re gonna speak out about your teammate, then at least have the guts to put your name next to it. Nonetheless, an anonymous teammate spoke out to Jackie Pepper of Pepperonsports.com. The player said that he and some teammates thought the story didn’t add up, but they never confronted Manti about it.
The Notre Dame football player, who asked for anonymity, told Pepper On Sports, “No we all knew he had only seen her once. But when the media was saying how he went through both deaths we knew,” said the source, referring to the back-to-back deaths of Te’o's grandmother and girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who allegedly died of Leukemia.
In response to my follow-up question asking if the source thought that Te’o kept the story going because of the media attention, the player replied, “Yeah. Right after the Michigan [State] game. He should have never brought her in the media. His grandma passing was enough.”
Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan State and subsequent media explosion appears to have been the turning point for the source and many of his teammates.
The source said while the players discussed their suspicions amongst themselves, they never confronted Te’o.
“We would never bring it up. But we would look at him when he would get all emotional during media about his girl,” the player said.
When asked if he thought Te’o was a good actor, the player replied, “Very good.”
This doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility here. Manti fell for the hoax and eventually discovered it, but by then was too embarrassed that he had fallen for a hoax and was in too deep, and so he just continued on with it.
This idea fits with what Notre Dame’s campus rep for College Spun had to say. Tyler Moorehead wrote this based on some on-campus gossip:
The debate among teammates wasn’t whether or not Manti actually knew this girl – it was clear that they had been in contact; no, players just didn’t think that it was fair to call Lennay Kekua Manti’s girlfriend, period (it is well-known on campus that he has had relations with other girls during his time at Notre Dame). They recognized what was going on for what it was – a terrible publicity stunt used to fuel Manti Te’o's Heisman campaign. In fact, many of the players privately commented that they didn’t want the students to wear leis in support of Manti and wouldn’t participate themselves – they cited that the team never responded so publicly to tragic events for other players. But there was also the feeling that Manti didn’t deserve to benefit from publicity from the death of somebody he barely knew.
Each piece of the story that is added makes this story even more ridiculous and strange. I’m inclined to want to disregard what an anonymous teammate says, but the fact that it fits with some on campus gossip means that it should at least be read and taken into consideration. Until Manti speaks out and talks about what happened himself, we will never start to uncover what actually happened. Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick better hope that Te’o doesn’t let him down though with his story, because he hitched his story to Te’o's events timeline. The one thing that I keep wondering is why didn’t Notre Dame take this public as soon as they knew? Why did they conduct a private investigation? I know they wanted to protect Manti, but it’s not like that has done any good now.