Tuiasosopo says he fell for Te'o

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 31, 2013
A California man said he created the hoax in which former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o fell for a fake, online girlfriend because he was in love with the football player. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw for the ''Dr. Phil Show,'' the first part of which aired Thursday. The 22-year-old Tuiasosopo said he built the online persona of Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te'o said he fell for without ever meeting in person and later believed to have died of leukemia. Tuiasosopo said he felt Kekua was a part of him, and grew feelings and emotions for Te'o that he could not control. He acknowledged that the hoax was cruel, but said it was never intended as a joke and that he got no financial gain from it. ''I pretty much had this escape of Lennay and this was where my heart had pretty much invested, not just time, but all of my energy went into this,'' he said. ''As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person,'' he said, referring to Te'o. ''I did all that I could to help this person become a better person, even though I wasn't getting nothing out of it.'' When the ruse was reported by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16, the report raised the questions about whether Te'o was involved. The story about how the All-American played through pain learning about the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day led to an outpouring of support from Notre Dame fans. It became the backdrop to the Fighting Irish's undefeated regular season and run to the BCS championship, where they lost to Alabama. Tuiasosopo said Te'o knew nothing of the hoax, and doesn't believe he ever suspected Kekua wasn't real. ''He had no involvement,'' Tuiasosopo said. ''He did not know anything.'' Te'o won seven national awards for his play and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He has denied any involvement from the beginning, and Notre Dame said an investigation of the player's claims backed up his story. But Tuiasosopo said he felt Te'o became a better person as a result of the relationship. ''If you really look at all his interviews, he felt that,'' he said. ''When he was under the understanding that he lost her, he realized all the good that Lennay had done for him.'' Through a spokesman, the Te'o family declined comment. Tuisasosopo said he decided to confess to Te'o earlier this month as the hoax was unraveling because he felt he could not go any further with his own life until the truth was out. ''You've heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that,'' he said ''To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is I'm going to do all that I can to live right.'' McGraw said that statement bothered him. ''I hope it's a pressure you don't put on yourself,'' he said. Tuiasosopo said he killed the Kekua character on the day in September Te'o learned his grandmother died, following an argument with Te'o. The football star had told Kekua he didn't need her, Tuiasosopo said. ''It hurt me,'' he said. ''It hit me like a brick wall. I was like, `Whoa, I've given so much into this. And I realized right then in that moment, that I poured so much into Lennay, that I myself was getting nothing, and look what I was left with.'' Te'o said he first learned that something was amiss when Kekua called him on Dec. 6, and told him she had faked her death. He told his parents about what had happened while home for Christmas break and called Notre Dame coaches on Dec. 26 to let them know. Notre Dame officials said that they interviewed Te'o and retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics firm, to investigate the case. They learned on Jan. 3 that there were no records indicating Lennay Kekua existed. Tuiasosopo said he was the voice of Kekua but initially refused to recreate it when pressed by McGraw. He eventually agreed to do the voice behind a privacy screen, something McGraw promised to show during part two of the interview on Friday.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Reds’ Joey Votto shuts down heckler with “I remember when you used to be thin”

Rob Gronkowski gets new contract, chance to double salary

Padres offering $99 ticket plan for five June wins or 16 June games – whatever happens first

Former Jets WR Devin Smith found out he was cut via Twitter

Roger Goodell tweets ‘Key & Peele’ joke about relaxed celebration rules

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Martavis Bryant: ‘I know this is my last chance’

Glennon: ‘This is my year and I’m not worried about the future’

Durant apologizes for response to fans complaining about blowouts

Sheldon Richardson says Jets locker room is better without Brandon Marshall

What's next for the Spurs?

Pro Football Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

Box Score 5/23: Preds, Warriors move on to respective Finals

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker