Redskins

What Te'o said to try to explain girlfriend hoax

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What Te'o said to try to explain girlfriend hoax

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o tried to clear the air about how he fell into an online relationship with a fictitious woman he met online who called herself Lennay Kekua. His grief at her ``death'' became a major story during the college football season. The problem was Kekua was a hoax - there was no such person.

Te'o spoke to ESPN for 2 1/2 hours on Friday evening at an IMG training facility in Florida where he is training for the NFL draft.

In question-and-answer form, these are some highlights of the way events unfolded, according to Te'o:

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Q: WHEN DID TE'O'S ONLINE ``RELATIONSHIP'' WITH THE FAKE WOMAN BEGIN AND HOW DID IT DEVELOP?

A: Te'o says he received a Facebook friend request from Kekua in early 2010, his freshman year at Notre Dame. They were in contact on and off over the next couple of years and, as Te'o describes it, it naturally progressed until they started to get very close last April. At that time, Te'o was told by a person portraying Kekua's brother, that Lennay had been in a serious car accident. In the wake of that twist, Te'o began to talk to the girl much more frequently. He became hugely invested in her and was then told she had leukemia.

Kekua ``died'' on Sept. 12, the same day Te'o's real grandmother died. Te'o said he was grief-stricken and had a testy conversation with Kekua, then - hours later - the pranksters called and said his girlfriend was dead.

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Q: SO TE'O NEVER SAW LENNAY KEKUA IN THE FLESH?

A: That's right. They had planned to meet up one time in San Diego during a long layover he had on his way home to Hawaii. That never happened because on April 28, Te'o says he was told, she got into a serious car accident. Te'o said he was told the accident put Kekua into a coma, and when she came out her recovery from serious injuries drew them closer. He started talking to a woman portraying Kekua every day.

He said before he returned from Hawaii to South Bend for preseason practice he had planned to meet up with her on California, but he had to cancel this time to attend a family reunion in Utah.

Te'o claims they tried to make video phone calls using Skype and FaceTime, but he said he could never see her face. She would say she could see him and tease him about being able to use the technology correctly.

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Q: WAS TE'O IN ON THE SCAM?

A: He says no. Skeptics contend that his story is so fantastic it's hard to believe, that he couldn't be so gullible to have been fooled by the scam. Yet no one has come forward with hard evidence that pins down Te'o as being a participant. In the lengthy and detailed story by Deadspin.com that broke the news of the hoax, the strongest accusation that Te'o was one of the perpetrators was an unidentified friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind of the prank, telling Deadspin he was ``80 percent sure'' that Manti Te'o was ``in on it.''

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Q: THROUGHOUT THE SEASON, THOUGH, TE'O SPOKE ABOUT HIS DEAD GIRLFRIEND AS IF SHE WE A LIVING PERSON. HOW DOES HE EXPLAIN THAT?

A: This is where it gets complicated. Te'o says he thought his girlfriend was real, but when she died - and word got out that he was playing through the deaths of both his grandmother and girlfriend - he was embarrassed that he had only ever had contact with Kekua online and by phone. Already, he had lied to his father and told him that he had seen Kekua.

So, in Te'o's words, ``I knew that - I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away. So people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude.''

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Q: HOW DID THE SCHEME UNRAVEL?

A: Te'o received a phone call on Dec. 6 from the Kekua's phone number. On the line was a woman who sounded like Kekua. He says he was confused, and thought it was one of her sisters. The woman was telling him a story about having to fake her death to evade drug dealers but not directly identifying herself. Te'o said ``She kept going back and forth. `It's me.'

``I eventually just gave up and said, `Who is me?' And she said, `It's Lennay.' So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. How could you do this to me? I ended that conversation by saying, simply, this: `You know what, Lennay, my Lennay died on Sept. 12. I don't know who you are, but Lennay died on Sept. 12th,' and that conversation ended.''

Te'o said he didn't know what to think at that point and her continued to refer to Lennay as his ``girlfriend.'' The woman contacted him again and the tales got even more confusing. He says he didn't think that Lennay wasn't real, he thought she might still be alive but that she was possibly toying with him.

He told his mother on Christmas Eve what was going on and his father on Christmas Day, and on Dec. 26th he told Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Within days, Notre Dame ordered an investigation.

Te'o told ESPN that not until the news broke earlier this week, and Tuiasosopo contacted him to apologize, did he finally realize Kekua wasn't real and the whole thing was a hoax.

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Q: HOW ELABORATE WAS THE SCHEME?

A: Very, according to Te'o. The pranksters used multiple characters, they sent photos of the flowers Te'o sent for Lennay's ``funeral'' to him to show they arrived. Te'o claims they became agitated when he began to see another girl at Notre Dame in December, and a woman claiming to be Lennay's sister called Te'o's mother to complain about it.

Lennay had a large extended family, Te'o says he was told, including a young relative, a 9-year-old girl named Pookah. Te'o met her face-to-face, along with Tuiasosopo, when Notre Dame was in California in November to play USC.

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Q: SO, IF IT WASN'T TE'O, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HOAX?

The Deadspin story pointed to Tuiasosopo as being most involved, and Te'o said that the 22-year-old contacted him on Jan. 16 to apologize.

Te'o said the message went like this: ``I have two people that I want to come clean with and that's you and your family. I'm not going to say anything to the press. I just want you to know the truth. And God bless, and blah, blah, blah.''

Tuiasosopo has not yet spoken publicly about the situation.

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Q: WHAT NEXT?

A: It seems no laws were broken, and Te'o has given no indication he wants to pursue a civil suit against the pranksters. Unless someone comes forward to refute Te'o's claims, or new evidence is unearthed contradicting what he has said, the next people he'll need to answer to are NFL coaches and executives.

Te'o will likely attend the combine in February and there he will start doing job interviews with prospective new employers. He has been projected as a potential high first-round pick. The first round is held the night of April 25 in New York City.

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How Dwayne Haskins beat Joe Burrow for the starting QB job at Ohio State

How Dwayne Haskins beat Joe Burrow for the starting QB job at Ohio State

Joe Burrow is arguably coming off the greatest single-season ever by a college football quarterback.

The LSU signal-caller finished the 2019 season a Heisman Trophy winner and a National Champion with a perfect 15-0 record. The 23-year-old broke numerous SEC and college football records with his 5,671 passing yards, 60 passing touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

Burrow, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, only ended up at LSU because he did not win the starting QB job at Ohio State. After three years in the program and a recent Buckeye graduate at the time, Burrow announced his intentions to transfer from Ohio State shortly after spring ball ended in 2018.

During that spring, the Buckeyes had an open quarterback competition, and current Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins beat out Burrow for the job. So, how did that happen?

Ohio State beat reporter Bill Rabinowitz joined the latest Redskins Talk podcast to explain how.

Rabinowitz explained that the competition between Haskins and Burrow started long before the spring of 2018. During the 2017 season, Burrow was the backup over Haskins at first, but broke his hand earlier in the season. Haskins became the backup in his place. Haskins, a redshirt freshman at the time, was forced into action against Michigan after longtime starter J.T. Barrett injured his knee in the third quarter.

Haskins rallied the Buckeyes to a victory over their rival Wolverines on the road, which gave him a significant leg up over Burrow in the battle entering spring ball.

"It was an open competition, but we all basically know that Burrow was going to have to knock out the champ," Rabinowitz said. "If you go into Ann Arbor and rally the Buckeyes to win there, that's a huge thing on your résumé."

Rabinowitz explained that the two quarterbacks were practically even during spring ball; neither one stood out above the other. But with Burrow set to graduate in three years, there was no reason for him to stay if he wasn't the starter. He earned the right to explore his options and chose to head south to LSU.

"Urban Meyer and Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator at the time, had seen what Haskins did in a game, and watched those two in practice," Rabinowitz said. "There wasn't a lot of separation. They wanted both to stay, but Burrow earned the right to move on. There were no hard feelings. It was a completely understandable move by all sides. This was a win-win."

The following fall, Haskins rewarded both Meyer and Day for naming him the starter, leading Ohio State to a 13-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory. Haskins finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and set multiple Ohio State single-season passing records in the process. Additionally, he shattered Drew Brees' Big Ten single-season passing touchdowns record (Brees had 39, Haskins finished with 50).

In Burrow's first year with LSU in 2018, he finished with just under 2,900 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, and five interceptions. That's a solid season, but nothing spectacular, especially when comparing it to Haskins' 2018 campaign.

"Last year, in 2018, when you asked which quarterback would you rather have, there were no Ohio State fans who said 'I wish Burrow were here instead of Haskins,'" Rabinowitz said. 

"I don't think anyone, not even Joe Burrow, could have envisioned what he did at LSU," he continued. "It's only because Burrow went off this year, had a year for the ages [that we're having this discussion]."

The one thing that surprised Ohio State with Haskins was not his production in 2018, but his decision to leave for the NFL after just one season as the starter. When Burrow transferred in 2018, he had already graduated. Haskins was just a redshirt sophomore at the time and had two years of eligibility remaining following the 2018 season.

But the combination of Haskins' incredible season with a weak quarterback class had the Ohio State passer shoot up draft boards towards the end of the 2018 season.

"[Ohio State] expected him to have two years, maybe even three," Rabinowitz said. "It wasn't until midseason, maybe even the later part of the season, where they were like, 'Oh my god, this guy might leave.'"

Haskins left, and the Redskins selected him No. 15 overall. Justin Fields, the No. 1 quarterback recruit from the 2018 class, transferred from Georgia to Ohio State days later, and led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff in 2019. So, this situation also seemed to be a win-win for both sides.

"So I think the fans, the contrarians who wanted Burrow [over Haskins], they'd be looking for a quarterback next year," Rabinowitz said. "[Ohio State] doesn't have to. Ohio State has Justin Fields, who's going to be a Heisman frontrunner next year."

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Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

WASHINGTON -- John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wes Unseld. That's how the Wizards' all-time scoring list reads from No.'s three through five after Monday's Wizards win over the Pistons, as Beal moved into sole possession of fourth place with a good chance of passing Wall before the season is over.

Unseld remains the most accomplished player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history as an NBA champion, 1977-78 Finals MVP, 1968-69 league MVP and rookie of the year plus a Hall of Fame induction. But Beal passing him is another reminder he already has a place among Wizards and Bullets luminaries.

"That's an honor because that list is full of greats, true Wizards and Bullets legends. To be a part of that is an honor," Beal said. 

Within the context of Wizards franchise history, Beal has already separated himself as one of the best to ever suit up. In addition to being fourth in points, he is the all-time leader in three-pointers, sixth in assists, seventh in steals and 10th in win shares. He also has the single-season record for threes. That's not bad for a guy who is 26 years old. 

The Wizards/Bullets franchise, of course, doesn't have the same historic success as others like the Celtics and Lakers, but it has been around for 59 seasons. During that time 444 different players have appeared in a game for them.

The franchise goes all the way back to 1962 when they were known as the Chicago Packers. Along the way, there have been more losses (2597) than wins (2142), but many All-Stars and decorated players have come through.

Continuing to make his mark on the Wizards/Bullets franchise seems to be genuinely important to Beal. During his halftime interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, he mentioned the team's Baltimore days when discussing the Unseld feat. Back when he signed his contract extension in October, he explained the decision partly in terms of creating a legacy in Washington and taking the franchise to places it hasn't been in a long time.

On Monday, he alluded to those goals again.

"I never would have dreamt of that or thought of that coming here. To still be here is an honor, too. I'm just taking it in full stride. I've still got a lot more basketball to play, so who knows where I'll end up," he said.

Beal is well on his way to being widely known as one of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history. If he plays many more years in Washington and doesn't leave on bad terms, he will likely have his jersey retired someday.

But in order to reach the true top tier of Wizards/Bullets greats, he will have to lead them to some playoff success. Getting to the conference finals, where Washington hasn't been since the 1970s, would certainly stand out.

Still, if you were putting together a roster of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history, he would already be included.

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