All-American linebacker Manti Te’o talked to, and about, someone posing as Lennay Kekua online and on the phone in late 2011 and 2012. After media were told Kekua died of leukemia last September, Te’o talked about her with reporters numerous times. This is a chronology of how the fake girlfriend story grew, based primarily on Te’o's comments in social media and interviews.
May 13, 2012 — From Te’o's Twitter account: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10 (hash)LMK
July 23 — From Te’o's Twitter account: mteo_5 Manti Te’o Be strong. Be brave. Never give up. (hash)3words (at)LennayKay
Sept. 13 — Asked by reporters, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says Te’o will play against Michigan State that Saturday despite the deaths that week of two people close to him. Media reports the next day identify the two as his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. Public records confirm that his grandmother, Annette Santiago, died Sept. 11.
Sept. 15 — Te’o has 12 tackles and breaks up two passes and the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish win 20-3 at No. 10 Michigan State. Te’o says afterward “I lost two women that I truly love” and that he had “my girlfriend’s family around me.”
Sept. 23 — In a one-on-one interview with Sports Illustrated, Te’o talks at length about his relationship with Kekua and her many health issues, making only one vague reference to meeting her for the first time in California in 2009. “We met just, ummmm, just she knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular.” He told SI they had been dating for a year. “Oct. 15 was the official date. Of last year. I’ve known her for four years. So we’ve been friends.” A transcript of the interview was posted Thursday.
Oct. 1 — A Sports Illustrated cover story describes how Te’o received a call from Kekua’s older brother informing him of her death. Te’o says: “My girlfriend always told me, ‘Send roses while they can still smell them, tell people you love them while they can still hear.’”
Oct. 3 — Te’o says at a media availability that during the walk-through before the Irish’s Sept. 22 game against Michigan, he asked what time it was and realized Kekua’s casket had been closed a minute earlier. He says she wanted him to skip her funeral to play. He had two interceptions in that 13-6 victory.
Oct. 12 — A South Bend Tribune article, based on information from Te’o's father, describes how Te’o and Kekua met at a 2009 game at Stanford. Te’o's father, Brian, says she would visit him in Hawaii.
Oct. 12 — From Te’o's Twitter account: Today is October the 12th! A month ago my life changed dramatically! Thank you for all your love and support! Day by day! (hash)574L
Nov. 14 — In an Associated Press story, Te’o says that “every morning I wake up and my girlfriend is not on the phone. It reminds me that she’s gone. That’s the hardest part.”
Dec. 8 — South Bend television station WSBT shoots video of Te’o saying in a pre-Heisman interview in New York, “I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.” That’s two days after the date given by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick for when Te’o found out about the hoax.
Dec. 9 — At the Lott Impact Awards dinner, Te’o says that Kekua “made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play.”
Jan. 5 — At the media day before the BCS title game, Te’o talks about his travails during the season, saying, “My team was always there for me, and my family was always there for me.”
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