10:53 AM EST, January 17, 2013
We're learning more about the jaw-dropping story the whole nation is talking about.
Manti Te'o is a college football star whose backstory about losing his girlfriend to leukemia earned him fame beyond his gridiron heroics.
In an interview on ESPN, Te'o said, "The last thing she said to me was, 'I love you.' "
Now, the bombshell—the girlfriend never existed. The woman in Facebook pictures, supposed to be the dead girlfriend, is alive and well and says she doesn't even know the Notre Dame superstar.
He says he's the victim of a cruel internet hoax, but others are asking: Was he in on it?
At the center of the scandal, linebacker Manti Te'o, whose family lives in a modest home in Hawaii.
His "girlfriend," is a 22-year-old beauty named Lennay Kekua. She supposedly died of leukemia in September on the very day his beloved grandmother also passed away.
Thousands of fans waved Hawaiian leis to support Te'o when he played against Michigan on the very day of his girlfriend's funeral. He was awarded the game ball in her memory.
But the whole thing has now been exposed as "blarney" by the sports website deadspin.com.
The death of Te'o's grandmother was all true. The death of his girlfriend, not so much.
INSIDE EDITION's Diane McInernery asked deadspin editor Jack Dickey, "What was the red flag?"
"Well, there were a million. There was no record of her birth. No record of her death. Everything that would be there for any other person, just wasn't there," said Dickey.
Te'o led Notre Dame to a spectacular season that only came to an end on January 7 when the fighting Irish lost the national championship to Alabama in a game watched by more than 26 million Americans.
Te'o didn't play well in the big game, which is now leading to speculation that it was a result of the scandal that he knew was about to be exposed.
Jordan Schultz of The Huffington Post told INSIDE EDITION, "A player like him, as good as he is, could have been psychologically impacted to play worse."
Te'o is claiming he was the victim of an internet hoax, and not the perpetrator. He says he met his girlfriend online and spoke to her over the phone but they never actually met in person.
Sheryl Underwood said on The Talk, "I could figure it out. How come anybody else couldn't figure it out. This is not real."
Barbara Walters said on The View, "I'm inclined to believe it was a hoax. I think it's pretty far fetched."
Manti Te'o says in a statement:
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
Notre Dame is backing their football hero, who finished second in balloting for the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said in a press conference, "The single most trusting person I ever met, will never be able to trust again in his life. That's an incredible tragedy."
But many are skeptical. "Notre Shame" says the New York Post headline.
Dickey said, "This is his story—that he didn't know? How didn't you know? That's anybody's question. You never met this woman."
Now, the internet is exploding with photos of guys posing with imaginary girlfriends. It's being called "Te'o-ing."