Lennay Kekua

ESPN Report: Te’o’s records confirm phone calls

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With Manti Te’o‘s much anticipated conversation with Katie Couric airing tomorrow afternoon, one of the final chapters in a bizarre story will play out.

While this won’t likely end any of the conspiracy theories or fascination about what really happened, one of the most important pieces of information seems to have just trickled out of ESPN’s report, burying deep beneath the lede of the story.

Manti Te’o has records to prove these phone calls happened.

This from ESPN:

A source close to Te’o gave Schaap documents that the source says are Te’o’s AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12. Their veracity could not be independently confirmed, but the source insisted they are genuine.

The records show that in that four-month span — when Te’o has said he believed Lennay Kekua to be in a Los Angeles hospital, recovering from an accident and being treated for cancer — Te’o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number in the 661 area code. The 661 area code covers Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The source told Schaap that Te’o believed the 661 phone number in question was Kekua’s.

Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length, including several that were several hundred minutes long. In an ESPN interview last Friday, and in interviews with both ESPN and Sports Illustrated last fall, Te’o said he was on the phone “every single night” with a person he believed to be Kekua, often for long stretches late at night.

On Friday, he said to Schaap, “I’d be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident and, she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I’d have the phone on the whole night.”

From the records, however, it does not appear that Te’o was on the phone every single night for the entire night. But the volume of calls and their duration is prodigious.

The fact that there are records of Te’o’s phone conversations — some of “prodigious” durations — matches up with the accounts Te’o provided, both before and after Deadspin’s story broke, is a huge deal, and one that’s vastly under-reported right now. This should end any of the reporting that currently exists, characterizing Te’o as someone that invented a story. There seems to be records of Te’o actually speaking to someone. That much is clear.

NBC sat down with the face behind Lennay Kekua, with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s high school classmate Diane O’Meara appearing on the Today Show.  O’Meara, whose images were the ones provided to Te’o throughout this relationship, claimed to be another innocent victim in the hoax, not knowing who Te’o even was until the story broke.

She also explained away a suspicious photo she took in December, one supplied to Te’o as proof that Lennay Kekua was alive and not dead, by telling Savannah Guthrie that she took the photo as a favor for Tuiasosopo, who was making a slideshow for a cousin that had been in a traumatic car accident.

After claiming to have not spoken to Tuiasosopo since high school, she explained the logic behind taking the photo, one used as the avatar for Lennay’s Twitter page.

“I could see how people would think that, but we’re raised to be polite, we’re raised to have a kind heart,’’ O’Meara told Today. “He repeatedly reached out to me on Facebook, and I almost felt guilty about not submitting a photo with this sign for this photo slideshow. He went as far as sending me a photo with his cousin with head trauma, bandages, in the hospital with him, and out of the kindness of my heart, I thought I was just comforting somebody.’’

While there’s been a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding Te’o, with reports continually focused on the two-day window of December 6-8, when Te’o was first alerted that Kekua was potentially still alive, the far greater story is the mystery behind these phone calls. Just who was Te’o talking to?

UPDATE: According to a report from the New York Daily News, the voice of Lennay Kekua was played by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo himself.

According to attorney Milton Grimes, the high-profile Los Angeles attorney who represented Rodney King, Tuiasosopo put on a falsetto voice to talk with Te’o. “(He) thought it was a female he was talking with,” Grimes told the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”

Tuiasosopo has trained both as an actor and a singer, auditioning for shows such as The Voice and leading the band at his father’s church in California.

“Come on, Hollywood does it all the time,” Grimes told the Daily News Wednesday. “People can do that.”

Grimes said that his client was seeking professional mental help, but wants to tell his side of the story.

“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told The Daily News. “It was establishing a communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.

“He’s torn by this. He didn’t mean for anyone to be hurt. Anything that he has done, he has apologized to those he could apologize to.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.