NEW YORK – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax.
He told ESPN in an off-camera interview Friday night: “When they hear the facts they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could be a part of this.”
The comments were Te’o’s first public remarks since Deadspin.com reported that his girlfriend not only didn’t die but, in fact, never existed.
Notre Dame and Te’o insist he was the victim of a cruel joke. Still unanswered are questions why the All-American never made it clear he knew the woman only online and by telephone.
Earlier Friday, athletic director Jack Swarbrick urged Te’o and his family to speak publicly about the hoax.
Te’o was interviewed at the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he is preparing for the NFL draft. ESPN said a public relations consultant was with him.
The Heisman Trophy finalist and his family had planned to go public with the story Monday, but Deadspin.com broke the news first on Wednesday.
Te’o led the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular season and the BCS title game, where they were routed 42-14 by Alabama and Te’o played poorly.