In the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne, All American,” the Notre Dame coach inspires his players with the famous phrase, “Win just one for the Gipper.” The Gipper was George Gipp, Notre Dame’s first All American, who died at the tragically early age of 25, due to a streptococcal throat infection.
Just days before his death, George Gipp led Notre Dame to victory over Northwestern. Like Gipp, Manti Te’o had his own performance inspiration. He won one for his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who allegedly had just died from leukemia, when he led Notre Dame to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State. Her last supposed wish for him was, “Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll still stay over there and that you’ll play and that you’ll honor me through the way you play...”
Here is the pivotal difference between the two, the Gipper was a real person, while Lennay Kekua was a made-up girlfriend who did not die from leukemia, since to do so required that she exist in the first place, which she didn’t.
According to the New York Daily News, Manti Te’o told Katie Couric that he was duped by Lannay, now known to have been the voice of a man, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Manti said that he only found out about the hoax on Dec. 6, when Lennay Kekua called him and informed him she was very much alive. Even though he knew that Lennay’s was not dead, he kept retelling the story to the press.
Complicating the question of Lennay’s existence is another football player’s claim he actually met her. According to Deadspin, fellow Samoan and friend of Manti Te’o, ex-Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui, claims he actually met the beautiful Lennay Kekua. He described her as having a "volleyball-type of physique.” Maui added, “She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... "
Many observers feel Manti is still not telling everything he knows. Katie even asked Manti if Lennay was a subterfuge to hide his sexual orientation, which Te’o denied. To give Manti the benefit of the doubt, he would have to explain why he devoted his life to a woman he never met, apparently cheated on with at least one local girl, and why he only received a picture of Lennay as “proof” that she wasn’t dead on Dec. 21.
Or perhaps the answer is as simple as this ---- both Notre Dame and the Cardinals need to look for better football helmet vendors.