In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o pauses during an interview with ESPN on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla.
(Photo: Ryan Jones, AP)
(USA TODAY) -- Manti Te'o might have briefly lied about Lennay Kekua after discovering in
early December that his former girlfriend didn't exist, but the pain he felt on
Sept. 12 when he was told Kekua had died of cancer was real, the All-American
told Katie Couric.
"What I went through was real. The feelings, the pain, the sorrow. That was
all real," Te'o said to Couric during his first on-camera interview, an excerpt
of which aired on ABC's Nightline early Thursday morning.
Te'o has said to both Couric and ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, who conducted an
untelevised interview with the linebacker on Jan. 18, that he had no inkling of
the true nature of his relationship with Kekua until Dec. 6, when the person
going by that name called to say she was still alive.
Despite the December phone call, Te'o told Schaap he was not totally
convinced that Kekua was a hoax until Jan. 16, when one of the alleged
perpetrators of the scam, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, called him to confess and
From September through early January - CBS This Morning ran a piece on
Te'o and Kekua on the day of the BCS championship game - the story defined
Te'o's season as much as his All-American production as Notre Dame's defensive
captain and team leader.
Asked if the publicity the story gave him was "intoxicating," Te'o replied,
"I think for me, the only thing I basked in is that I could... I had an impact on
people. That people turned to me for inspiration."
In a conversation with Nightline host Dan Harris, Couric said she
believes Te'o's "affection for this young woman was very real."
Said Couric, "I think the relationship was really real. I think the pain he
felt was very real. He played a voice mail, and it's of a boyfriend and
"Yes, he stayed on the phone with her for hours and hours. He would keep the
phone on at night and wake up with the phone on his ear in the morning."
The entire interview will air Thursday on Katie, Couric's syndicated
Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports