The ongoing Manti Te’o scandal just keeps getting more twisted and weird. One of the biggest outlets that ran with the dead girlfriend story, who we now know never existed, was Sports Illustrated. Pete Thamel interviewed multiple people for his profile on Te’o, including the linebacker himself. Thamel said he had some red flags pop up about the supposed girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, but that he wrote around them.
Now, Thamel has posted the entire transcript of his interview with Te’o. Here are some of the more interesting parts, but it’s definitely worth a full read on your own over at SI. These are the quotes that seem the weirdest, considering Te’o says he’s the victim of hoax. But if that’s true, how does he know all of these details or why would he embellish so much?
TE’O: On April 28 [my girlfriend] got in a bad accident and was hit by a drunk driver. Ever since April 28 she’s been in the hospital. She recovered from the accident but we were always wondering why some days she would be doing well and the next day she would be down in the dumps and complaining about pain in her back. It was then that we found out she had leukemia.
SI: Sorry to cut you off, just trying to get the timetable right.
TE’O: It was the beginning of July. She and I, man, we had this relationship where it was just amazing. With all that time on her hands in the hospital, she was never thinking about herself and what was hurting here. She was always thinking about others. She went on anD wrote a letter to me before every game. Things that she would want me to know. So yeah.
SI: Did she send them to you?
TE’O: She had them all on her iPad and her family found [them]. Her family, what they would do is they would read it to me. And then they’ll send it to me in a picture.
Later, Te’o went into extreme detail about ‘her’ and how they met and much, much more.
SI: How did you meet her?
TE’O: We met just, ummmm, just she knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular.
SI: How long were you dating? I know that can be a complicated question.
TE’O: Oct. 15 was the official date. Of last year. I’ve known her for four years. So we’ve been friends.
SI: So you dated for about a year.
SI: Just want to make sure I have her name right.
TE’O: Lennay Kekua.
SI: She has a Hawaiian sounding name. Is she from there?
TE’O: Her real name is actually Melelengei, but her friends couldn’t say that so they just called her Lennay.
SI: What did she do?
TE’O: She actually just graduated from Stanford. She worked at Clark’s Construction Company, I think. She replaced her dad after her dad passed.
SI: When did her dad pass?
TE’O: In October. She took that mantle for him.
So the person or people who may have been playing this hoax provided all that backstory? That would be pretty deep, but I suppose it’s possible. Or, maybe after Te’o realized how this sob story could help him, he continued to build the narrative because why not? If it helps get a Heisman, who gets hurt? If he knew he was being hoaxed, then he’s just as much to blame as the people behind the hoax. Here’s where it gets even deeper when ‘Lennay’s’ twin brother texted the news of her ‘death’ to Te’o.
SI: What was her older brother’s name?
SI: What did he have to tell you?
TE’O: I kind of felt it. He was just crying and crying and crying. I just had to calm him down. I was like, “You have to speak clearly, I need to know what’s going on.” That’s when he told me, Lala is gone. That’s what they call her. They call her Lala.
SI: How did you feel in the locker room when you got the news?
TE’O: I just felt that it just turned black. Things got dark. I have never felt that way before. And I don’t know. I couldn’t control anything. I was just, pure, just I don’t even know the feeling. I can’t even describe it. I just broke down.
Pretty emotional for a guy who never physically met her, as he now says, though he originally said they met in person when Notre Dame played Stanford in California in 2009 and their eyes locked and they shook hands. So later they talk about ‘Lennay’ being in the hospital.
SI: She couldn’t communicate?
No. She could only breathe. One of the miraculous things was when I talked to her and she would hear my voice her breathing would pick up. Like quickly, and then she would start crying. But her breathing would quicken, and she would start crying. So her brother was in the room with the nurse. They were monitoring her. She said, “Who is she on the phone with?” Her boyfriend. She was like, “That’s amazing. She doesn’t do that with anybody else.” So that happened. And then she flatlined and we were losing her.
The day I went home, that was the day they were going to pull it. They were saying their goodbyes and all that. I said, “Babe, I’m never going to say goodbye to you. If you really want to go, she really missed her dad, so I said, “If you want to go, be with dad, go. Just know that I love you very, very much.” I had this very positive feeling that everything was going to be OK. I landed in Hawaii. By the time I said my goodbyes. Not my goodbyes, my I love you, I’ll see you later, that kind of thing, I jumped on the airplane to go to Hawaii. They were scheduled to pull the plug while I was in the air.
So right when I landed, I was expecting to get a voicemail saying she’s gone. So I landed and I had a voicemail from her brother saying, “Brother, call me back right now.” So you can imagine what’s going through my head. I was like, “What am I going to do? How am I going to take this?’”And so I called him back, the doctor came in and he saw something and he wants to try some treatment on her to see if it works. From there she slowly started to get better. Slowly. Eventually she came out of her coma and she started having memory problems and she couldn’t remember because of the accident. That’s how much damage she had to her frontal lobe. She had memory problems. I was actually the first person that she talked to. She was breathing, breathing. When I talked to her, I would say, “Babe, do you know who this is?” I knew she knew who it was because her breathing would pick up. I was like, “Relax, chill. Breathe slowly. Breathe slowly.” And then, that was when she first started to speak was that conversation. I was like, “Babe, I love you. I love you.” Very slightly she said, “I love you.”
SI: Was that right when you got back?
TE’O: Then she started to make progress.
SI: This is unbelievable.
Yeah, you could say that. The whole transcript is at Sports Illustrated’s website and it makes for some good, uncomfortable reading.