You would be hard-pressed to find a stranger story than the one that is unfolding (or more accurately, unraveling) around Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
Part of Te'o's outstanding 2012 season that saw him finish second in the Heisman Trophy voting, was that he "overcame" the death of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua September 11. Te'o played four days later against Michigan State, helping the Irish to a 20-3 win.
Wednesday, Deadspin published a mind-blowing story that revealed the whole idea of Lennay Kekua was an elaborate hoax -- Te'o never met her in person, in fact, she never existed. Notre Dame called a hastily-planned press conference during which athletic director Jack Swarbrick backed Te'o (with tears) and said the linebacker is a victim.
Te'o himself released a prepared statement painting himself as a victim and admitting Kekua never existed.
And here's where it gets weirder. In an ESPN article about the saga, Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a claims to have met her in American Samoa in 2011.
"This was before her and Manti," Mauia said Wednesday evening. "I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was -- I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa."
Cardinals vice president of media relations Mark Dalton shed a little humor on the issue Thursday morning via Twitter.
Surprisingly large # of interview requests this AM for Reagan Mauia; many more than a typical Thursday for him— MarkDalton (@CardsMarkD) January 17, 2013
For the record Reagan Maui'a was on @azcardinals roster for 5 weeks this past season from 9/28 to 10/30 (at least I think it was him)— MarkDalton (@CardsMarkD) January 17, 2013
Te'o is reportedly scheduled to speak to a reporter Thursday about this mess. He's been training for the NFL Draft in Florida.