Tyler Moorehead – real name! – a Notre Dame student, has done a pretty fantastic job of providing some context about what the mood was like on campus about Manti Te’o's “girlfriend.” Quick note: Remember, she’s fake. Except one NFL player thinks she’s real and claims to have met her. Got it?
Here’s what Moorehead writes about the aftermath of Lennay Kekua’s death:
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.
So Te’o was cheating on his fake girlfriend?
Manti must have known how beneficial this publicity would be in a season that marked Notre Dame’s return to the national elite, and one that also put him squarely in the Heisman race. As a defensive player, you can’t win the prestigious award without exceptional circumstances — and here one had conveniently fallen into his lap. So he went with it, fed off of it, and it riveted the nation. Love for Manti Te’o exceeded that of any player I have ever seen, and even non-Irish fans hailed him as an inspiration. And here’s where it all gets even trickier.
Manti knew that it was over-the-top — his teammates had gotten that sense a long time prior. And now he was in too deep. More and more questions were asked about this fascinating story, and he kept answering them, calling Kekua “the love of his life”, even though he was digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.
Interesting to note here – Moorehead is not speculating that Te’o was “in on the hoax” but rather started to milk what he thought was a real relationship with a real women (actually: fake, fake) in hopes of helping him win the Heisman. Depressing, if true. We’ll never know for sure what he was really thinking, kind of like what happened between Tiger and Elin in their driveway a few Novembers ago.
While I believe Manti Te’o to have an incredibly good heart and to have gotten duped, I will also be quick to point out that he oversold all of this drama in the first place. It was heinous of him to play up a relationship as the love of his life for a girl he had never actually met — I think most people can agree that is ridiculous. And I think Notre Dame had to have some knowledge of the the whole case being significantly embellished but was on board because of the positive press and hype it brought to the university. Could it have been a massive oversight and university officials just took Manti at his word that it was his girlfriend? Absolutely, but I like to think my school’s athletic department is a little smarter than that — it has shown itself to be quite media savvy in the past. I think that Te’o, his family, and Notre Dame all knew what was going on in terms of hyperbole (but not the entire non-existence) and decided to go with it, never expecting the truth to come out.
A grievous mistake, if true.
Plenty of people had an idea that something was going on — as soon as players found out, it slowly leaked to their friends, and their friends’ friends. But it all went left unsaid because nobody but Manti and the Lennay Kekua imposters truly knew the full reality of their relationship.