‘Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist’: Manti Te’o Insisted He Was ‘Already at Peace With His Life’ But Was Still ‘Anxious’ to Film

Netflix users are tuning in to the documentary, Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, a stranger-than-fiction story about an extreme catfishing case, which sports fans will easily recall from 2012. Football player Manti Te’o is now opening up about that time in his life and why he has decided to share his story despite having anxiety about filming Untold.

Manti Te’o’s catfishing scandal

Te’o was a college football star, playing for the University of Notre Dame from 2009 to 2012. During the linebacker’s last year playing for Notre Dame, Te’o told media outlets that both his grandmother and his girlfriend had died on the same day: September 11, 2012. 

The football player stated that his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, was injured in a car accident. While receiving treatment for her injuries, doctors discovered she had leukemia. 

Te’o did not miss a single game that season. He said Kekua made him promise before her death that he would play, even if something happened to her. He received a lot of admiring press for how he handled the incident. However, in 2013, two Deadspin reporters received an anonymous tip about Kekau.

After some digging, the media discovered that she did not exist at all and was most likely the fabrication of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a family friend of Te’o. While Te’o had previously spoken about time spent with Kekau, after the revelation of the hoax, he admitted the relationship had only been online.

Te’o also said he became aware of the hoax when he received a phone call from someone claiming to be Kekau, saying she was still alive. Tuiasosopo confessed to catfishing Te’o, saying she fell in love with the college football star. Since the incident, Tuiasosopo has come out as a transgender woman and now goes by the name Naya. 

Why Te’o was ‘anxious’ to film the Netflix documentary 

The incident hurt Te’o’s career. Many believed he was in on the hoax and using it as a ploy to garner good press. The bad PR from the catfishing also knocked Te’o down to a second-round draft pick. Many thought the football player would not want to relive this part of his life, but Te’o was eager to share his side of the story. 

“Honestly, I was a little anxious about it,” he admitted to USA Today. “I was like, man, it was one of those things of, ‘I don’t want to talk about it again.’ All the facts are out there and I’m happy with it because it’s factual [so] let’s see how it does.”

He continued, “Since Day One, it’s been nothing but positive.” Te’o claimed to have already been at peace with his life before the documentary was filmed. But it seems like the football player saw his participation as cathartic. 

Manti Te’o’s return to Notre Dame

Te’o recently returned to Notre Dame, a place he calls home. He also spoke to local media about his time on campus. “I owe Notre Dame for everything,” the football player shared. “I owe this school everything, including you all. You’re all my friends.” 

Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish player Manti Te'o waves to fans
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 31-year-old continued, “[Notre Dame is] always home. I don’t think there’s a place that’s not special. As far as the feel, it’s always the same, bro.”

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