Arizona Cardinals fullback on Manti Te’o's fake girlfriend: ‘No, she’s real.’

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Lennay Kekua, Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend, might not be so fake after all.

Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia told ESPN that he not only knew Kekua, but that he was close with her family.

***record scratch***

This after Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference – a tearful press conference – Wednesday claiming Te’o had been the victim of an elaborate hoax created by a host of perpetrators who conspired to make Te’o fall in love and subsequently lose Kekua in grandiose fashion.

But Mauia said Notre Dame might have been misinformed. He said he met Kekua in person when he went to do charity work in American Samoa with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Troy Polamalu and several other Polynesians back in June 2011.

"This was before her and Manti," Mauia said Wednesday evening. "I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was... I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa."

"She was tall," he said. "Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... "

He said it is his understanding that Kekua's mother is operating her Twitter account. He said he'd never met her mother. When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said: "No, she is real."

Is it possible there are two Lennay Kekua’s? Sure, but that would be one heck of a coincidence.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the short version:

Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, passed away on Sept. 12 after a short battle with leukemia. It was the same day Te'o's grandmother passed. Te’o, heartbroken, shared the story with the media and of course the media ran with it. Unbeknownst to Te’o, the girlfriend wasn’t real and he was the victim of an elaborate hoax.

[Related: ND presents believable explanation for Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax]

Or at least that’s what we’ve been told.

Both Notre Dame and Te’o, who issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, said the hoax was cruel and detailed how the entire play went down. Te’o said they had met online and Swarbrick confirmed the entire relationship was online. Swarbrick also said – but didn’t elaborate – that the university hired a firm to investigate the woman, who called Te’o on Dec. 6 and told him she wasn’t actually dead. And that firm seemed to confirm Te’o’s story.

It all seemed fishy considering there were quotes from Te’o’s dad that said the two had met and there was a description of the initial meeting at Stanford. But Swarbrick said Te’o told him that every time he wanted to meet Kekua, she’d come up with an excuse not to.

So who to believe?

Mauia said he met Kekua in June 2011 and he said he thought that was before Te’o met her. The story in the South Bend Tribune claims Te’o met Kekua at Stanford in 2009. Te’o’s father, Brian, said the two have carried on a relationship since that time and said the two met when they were home in Hawaii. He even went as far as to as to say that he thought she could be his daughter-in-law, though it’s unclear whether he’d ever met her.

According to Swarbrick, Te’o’s parents didn’t know the truth about the relationship until Te’o told them on Dec. 26.

[Related: Manti Te'o's girlfriend: a tall tale everyone wanted to believe]

What we can glean from Te’o’s statement was that he was duped for three years before he finally realized – after his dead girlfriend called him claiming not to actually be dead – that this was a hoax.

Naïve, gullible or lying? You decide.

Also, On Dec. 8, two days after Te'o supposedly found out his girlfriend was not dead, he told media at the Heisman Trophy presentation: "I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer."

Um.... no you didn't. Unless it was a different girlfriend.

We’ve yet to hear from Te’o other than the statement. Swarbrick said that he would address the media soon. But it’s hard to believe Te’o was the victim of a hoax when so many holes continue to be punched in his story.

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