SOUTH BEND, Ind., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Inspiring stories about a girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o who died of leukemia were part of a hoax, Deadspin.com reported Wednesday.
The website said the girlfriend -- Lennay Kekua -- never existed even as the national sports media wrote of how she inspired the Heisman Trophy candidate to feats of glory as the Fighting Irish completed an undefeated regular season.
Rather, Deadspin.com said accounts of how the two met at Stanford University in 2008, later became a couple and her subsequent death in September -- only days after the death of Te'o's grandmother -- were fictional.
Citing extensive interviews, the website reported the girlfriend was an online persona created by Te'o's friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the pastor of a Palmdale, Calif., church, and intimated the linebacker may have been in on the deception.
Te'o issued a statement Wednesday contending he was the victim of an elaborate hoax.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," he said.
"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life," he added.