Manti Te'o has spoken to a reporter for the first time in days and gone on the record:
He played no role in Lennay Kekua and duping the public into believing he had a girlfriend who died of cancer.
"I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap last night in a two-and-a-half hour, off-camera interview.
The Notre Dame linebacker and NFL prospect even said he didn't know for total certainty that Kekua was a fabrication until Wednesday night when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called him and admitted to the hoax.
"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o said. "According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."
Among other topics covered in the interview:
- Te'o admitted to lying to his father about having met Kekua; he never actually did.
- Yes, he did Skype with Kekua, but described the individual on the other end as being in a "black box," unseen.
- Numerous personal meetings were set up and then canceled by Kekua.
Te'o does take responsibility for the story spinning out of control, saying he "kind of tailored" it "to have people think that, 'yeah, he met her before she passed away,' so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude."
Te'o received a call from Lenny on December 6, claiming she had faked her own death to avoid drug dealers. He said he responded with anger and, yes, acknowledged her existence in a couple interviews afterward because he didn't know "what to believe."
"All I knew for sure in my head was that she died on September 12."
Following the interview, Te'o showed Schaap Twitter direct messages from Tuiasosopo that were comprised of an apology for orchestrating the scheme.