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Manti Te'o controversy: Notre Dame teammates were skeptical about girlfriend

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Fighting Irish football players saw red flags in online relationship, but didn't want to challenge teammate.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The overarching question after the first day of the surreal Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story is: How could Te'o not have known? If what Te'o and Notre Dame are saying is true, and Te'o was involved in an "exclusively online" relationship with a woman he met three years ago and had never seen face-to-face, how could he not have discovered the scam earlier? How did he fall victim to multiple canceled visits to Hawaii, to the stories of car wrecks and leukemia, to late-night phone conversations with a figment of someone's imagination?

As Keith Arnold of NBC Sports' Inside the Irish is reporting tonight, Manti Te'o's Notre Dame teammates had many of the same concerns. They explained the unusual relationship between their defensive leader and his mysterious Californian girlfriend as a case of Manti being Manti:

From the start, teammates were skeptical about Te'o's relationship with a girl they had never met. Yet with a leader like Te'o, a guy that was so very clearly cut from a different cloth, it was difficult to challenge a teammate that had always walked around with a conviction and belief system so very different than most 21-year-olds. And if that meant a long-distance, heart-tugging relationship for Te'o that only existed during late-night phone calls and Twitter exchanges, then teammates were quick to shrug their shoulders at a boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic that was just as unusual as their once-in-a-generation teammate.

As we all -- or, at least, as all of us but former Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a -- now know, the "relationship" between Te'o and his girlfriend was not a relationship at all, but a part of an elaborate hoax, that the Internet-only girlfriend was an illusion. It remains to be seen whether Te'o was complicit or simply incredibly, ridiculously gullible.