NEW YORK -- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o insisted he had no role in the bizarre hoax involving his "dead" girlfriend and told ESPN on Friday night that he was duped by a person who has since apologized to him.
In an off-camera interview with ESPN on Friday night, Te'o said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California, contacted him two days ago and confessed to the prank. Deadspin.com first exposed the hoax on Wednesday and indicated Tuiasosopo was involved in it.
"I wasn't faking it," ESPN quoted Te'o as saying during the 2 1-2 hour interview. "I wasn't part of this. When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this.”
Te'o said he first met Tuiasosopo in person after the Southern California game in November. Te'o told ESPN that Tuiasosopo told him he was the cousin of Lennay Kekua, the woman who Te'o believed he had fallen for through Internet chats and long phone conversations.
Te'o said he never met Kekua face-to-face and when he tried to speak with her via Skype and video phone calls, the picture was blocked.
He also told ESPN that he lied to his father about how he met the woman. To cover that up, he apparently lied to everyone else.
After he was told Kekua had died of leukemia in early September, he said he misled the public about the nature of the "relationship" because he was uncomfortable saying he had never met her in person.
"That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that. I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," he said. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away.”