This morning, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was simply the No. 8 overall pick in Mel Kiper's mock draft. Now, he's the alleged victim of an elaborate hoax involving a non-existent dead girlfriend.
I had a busy day at the day job today, but I knew that when Mel Kiper's mock draft dropped this morning, I'd be blogging about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o after work. That's because Kiper projected Te'o to the Buffalo Bills with the No. 8 overall pick.
The plan was to talk a bit about Te'o's excellent senior season, the healthy amount of buzz surrounding him as a prospect, and discuss his poor performance in the BCS national championship game earlier this month. Instead, we're going to talk about his fake dead girlfriend.
You only need to have followed college football casually to know that Te'o, a Heisman Trophy finalist, was putting up an outstanding senior season while playing through the tragedy of two deaths: that of his grandmother, and that of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. Except, as Deadspin.com reports in the link above, Kekua doesn't exist.
So, yeah: that's really freakin' weird. It'll end up being a lot of other adjectives, too, but "weird" is the best place to start. We highly, highly encourage you to read that Deadspin piece; it's one of the most surreal reports you're likely to ever read.
Whether or not Te'o was aware that the girlfriend he'd never met was a hoax remains to be seen; the story certainly didn't hurt his Heisman credentials. For now, Te'o is claiming to be the victim of the hoax, and has already released a statement on the matter. In it, he says the following:
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.
Look, maybe it's just me, but there will never be a satisfying enough answer to the question that really matters right now: how in the bloody hell does something like this happen? Especially in this day and age?
Manti Te'o was an excellent collegiate linebacker. He's got the makings of being an excellent, three-down-capable pro middle linebacker. He's also now his own personal circus - and we're betting that Kiper's mock draft will be the last to have Te'o off the board in the Top 10 for quite some time.