Just when it seemed like the only thing that everyone could agree on regarding the bizarre hoax involving Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was that Lennay Kekua never existed, Reagan Maui'a stepped forward and disagreed. Maui'a played three games with the Arizona Cardinals during the 2012 season.
The 28-year-old NFL player who attended college in Te'o's home state of Hawaii told ESPN on Wednesday that he met the woman who never existed and never died tragically of leukemia ahead of a Notre Dame football game against Michigan State.
After Deadspin's report revealed one of the most poignant narratives of the college football season was a falsehood, both Notre Dame and Te'o issued statements indicating that the star linebacker had been the victim of a hoax.
While Te'o's possible complicity remained a hot topic even as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick backed him, there seemed to at least be consensus on the fact that Kekua was not real and the story of her tragic death was a fabrication.
Enter Maui'a. While did not comment on her death to ESPN, he says that he met Kekua in June 2011 while doing charity work in American Samoa along with Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu.
"This was before her and Manti. I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends," Maui'a told ESPN on Wednesday evening. "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."
Further complicating Maui'a's account of meeting Kekua is his claim that he was introduced to her by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who figures prominently into Deadspin's report. Relatives of the 22-year-old Tuiasosopo, who appeared to know Te'o based on various online exchanges, told Deadspin that they believed he was the creator of Kekua.
Could he also have fooled Maui'a? While Swarbrick indicated during his press conference that Te'o's relationship was conducted exclusively online and over the telephone, is it possible that there was also someone portraying herself as Kekua during in-person meetings with other people?