The already-bizarre Manti Te'o-Lennay Kekua story just got stranger.
Earlier today, Deadspin published a report that Kekua, who the press was told died of leukemia in September, was in fact a fictional person created as part of an elaborate online hoax. Contradicting that report, Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a has told ESPN that not only is Lennay Kekua a real person, but that he personally met her while doing charity work in Samoa with Troy Polamalu and other Polynesian athletes. Maui'a claims they were introduced by her cousin, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo:
After the initial meeting, Mauia said he met her at an "after-party" for all of the athletes involved in the camp.
"She was tall," he said. "Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... "
He said it is his understanding that Kekua's mother is operating her Twitter account. He said he'd never met her mother. When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said: "No, she is real."
The report contradicts Notre Dame athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who told reporters Wednesday night that Kekua is a fictional character created to perpetrate a hoax against star Irish linebacker Manti Te'o.
Tuiasosopo, a former high school football star and current professional musician, was cited by Deadspin as the person behind Lennay Kekua's apparently fictional persona. Tuiasosopo is reportedly a close friend of the Te'o family.
Te'o and members of his family had previously told reporters that the two had met after a game between Notre Dame and Stanford, and that Kekua had visited Hawaii to see Te'o's family. Swarbrick confirmed tonight that those reports were false, saying it was a "purely online relationship."