With each passing hour, the story of the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax grows stranger. The latest installment in the ever-developing tale comes from Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.
In late September, shortly after Te'o's grandmother and fictitious girlfriend passed away, Thamel sat down with the star linebacker to prepare for a feature that would run on Oct. 1.
With new details arising ever since Deadspin's Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey broke the Te'o story on Wednesday, Thamel decided to share the transcript of his conversation with Te'o about Lennay Kekua, which you can find in its entirety here (via SI.com).
Some of the quotes are chilling.
Te'o begins by describing his relationship with Lennay Kekua:
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 [her]. 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.
Te'o explains that those "letters" were on Kekua's iPad, and her family would read them to him before sending them to him as pictures.
In the interview, Te'o says that he and Kekua started dating on Oct. 15 of 2011, but he added, "I've known her for four years. So we've been friends."
Te'o proceeds to discuss Kekua's career and life goals:
Their family worked really hard and worked their way up. She's very smart, very smart and very intellectual. She worked there (at a construction company) but her main dream was to work with kids. She traveled all around. She taught at elementary schools. She flew to New Zealand to just work with kids. That's what she loved to do, work with children.
Multiple times, Te'o didn't seem to be sure of the facts. When he was asked about how Kekua died, he said, "It was just so sudden. I don't know the details of it. It was just a surprise."
When asked about her injuries following the car accident, he said, "I don't know. She had a lot of injuries."
When asked about her major, he said, "Her major was in English and something. I'll double check."
Te'o offered details of the day he found Kekua had passed away:
She was actually getting better to the point where she was cleared to fly and was sent home. She was doing better. So I woke up in the morning and my parents woke me up and they told me about my grandma. And my girlfriend was just someone who was so loving and caring and cares for others. She really loves my parents and my parents love her. She called and she offered her condolences on behalf of her and her family and she was telling them that she loves him and how they're thinking and praying for us.
And then I remember I went to class and went to workouts and after workouts, right before I was about to come into meetings, I got a text message from her phone but it was her brother. Every time her brother texts me he just says, "Bro." I was like, "Why is her brother texting me?" Then I get a phone call from her older brother's phone. He's just crying. And immediately I felt like, "Oh my Gosh, what just happened." And then he told me, "She's gone bro."
He then explained why he attended practice after finding out that his girlfriend of one year had suddenly died:
I knew for me that my girlfriend and my family would want me to be out there. They wouldn't want me to be sulking over things. I knew for me, the best way to show they that I loved them was to play the best game of my life on Saturday. In order to do that, I needed to be out there practicing no matter what I was going through. I needed to just suck it up and get out there and get my work done and be ready to represent them the best way I know how on Saturday. When I got out there, it was hard. But I just brought my team up. Coach brought my team up. He had them come out and explain to them what happened. I told them I love each and every one of you. I lost my grandmother the night before and found out this morning that I just lost my girlfriend six hours later. Never in my life has family been pushed to the forefront. My goal is now, and has been, but there's more to it now. Just to make sure I see my family and loved ones again. I told them, this is my family. You guys are my family. I love each and every one of you. Stick together. And I told them, my girlfriend always told me, "Send roses while they still can smell them, tell them they love you while they still can hear it." I told them to make sure you tell your family members you love them every single day.
Te'o also offered multiple stories about how Kekua supposedly was near death multiple times while in the hospital and that her breathing would "pick up" when he talked to her on the phone:
She didn't get out. She went from there. Remember she got in the accident and she was in a coma. We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice. It was just a trippy situation. It was a day I was flying home from South Bend to go home for summer break. It was May. Mid-May. That was the day where they said, "Bro, we're going to pull it. We're going to pull the plug." I remember having this feeling like everything is going to be OK. They were telling me, "Say your goodbyes." From April 28 to around mid-May, I was always talking to my girlfriend who was on a machine.
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.
Suddenly, Te'o said, Kekua started making progress before her condition worsened again:
As she started to make progress. She had her good days. And then the next day she'd say, "Babe my back is sore. I can't feel it. Something is wrong. I don't know what's wrong. My chest is burning." And stuff like that. They said that they took her in and ran some blood tests and that's when they found leukemia. From that hospital she was treated for cancer and then she went to St. Jude's. She was in St. Jude's and then she went to another hospital.
Finally, Te'o talked about how Kekua had attended one of his games:
SI: Where did you meet her in California?
TE'O: She actually came to one of the games. She saw me at one of the games.
SI: October 15, I assume is USC?
TE'O: That was in November. But she saw me at the USC game of my sophomore year. We were still just friends, we were acquaintances.
As you can see, there are many notable discrepancies in the transcript with the details that have emerged surrounding the Te'o saga.
For now, it's still impossible to determine whether the Notre Dame linebacker is a victim or played a part in the hoax.