Manti Te'o interview: What we know

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Parsing some of the information from Manti Te'o's Friday night interview to piece together what we know.

With the fog of whatever happened late last night and early this morning out of the way, there is a clearer picture of what Manti Te'o said in his interview with ESPN. The interview took place in Florida late Friday night, with Jeremy Schaap distributing some of the highlights on the 1 a.m. edition of SportsCenter this morning. At the time, though, there were inconsistencies, misinformation and rapid-fire corrections and updates as a result of the hurried nature of the interview recap.

It looks like the story is set now. You can read it here. Some of the key points:

  • There was conflicting information about whether Ronaiah Tuiasosopo came clean to Te'o over the phone or through direct messages on Twitter. The answer is both, apparently. The story now reflects that Te'o received direct messages from a person he believed was Tuiasosopo, then received a phone call later.
  • Screenshots of the direct messages can be found here. They came from @LennayKay. The problem? @LennayKay was "created" again on Jan. 16 -- the date Te'o received the messages. It was apparent it was a troll account that didn't appear to be associated with Tuiasosopo. On Thursday, a tweet from @LennayKay announced a statement was forthcoming. That statement was a joke about the Alabama offense not thinking Te'o was real. Were the DMs part of another hoax while the phone call was real?
  • Edit: At least one of the DMs in the screenshot was over 140 characters. You can't do this on Twitter. Direct messages have the same character limit as tweets. But wait! There's a clear seam in the long DM, like it was pieced together (as Timothy Burke noted). It's after "you" and before "the." Screen_shot_2013-01-19_at_9
  • Te'o never did Skype or meet the girl he believed was Lennay Kekua. He said meetings were arranged, then canceled, and attempts to Skype were met with a "black box" on the other end. He told his father he had met Kekua and "tailored" stories to give the impression that the two had met before -- both to his family and media.
  • Te'o did speak of Kekua in interviews after a Dec. 6 phone call from a number he thought was hers called him, saying the death had been faked to avoid drug dealers. Te'o said he continued to speak about her because he was still confused and unsure of what happened.
  • A group related to Tuiasosopo showed up at Notre Dame's team hotel in the run-up to the BCS Championship. They were in the lobby, and Te'o said he saw photos of the group -- tipping him off to their presence. He also received a phone call from someone looking for Kekua, saying they were waiting for her in the lobby. Contrary to the report, though, I've been told Te'o said it did not affect his play in the BCS Championship.
  • On that last point, it's conceivable that he was being pranked outside the realm of the hoax. College football fans have been known to do wild things to rattle a player. This could include finding his number and calling pretending to looking for a dead girlfriend. No matter the case, that had to have been another jarring phone call.

There's more in the ESPN story and I'd encourage you to read it all, judging what happened for yourself. Like the rest of the story, it's all incredibly confusing, and there's a lot of information to parse. In the end, we may never know what really happened, considering how many layers there are to peel back. But Te'o's interview was another piece in the puzzle -- a puzzle that's growing larger and more complex by the hour.

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