The relationship continued. On the talk show "Katie," tapes were played of voice mails left by the woman Te'o said he thought was Kekua. In one, she talked about starting her first session of chemotherapy. In another, she suspiciously called him out after she said another woman answered his phone. In another, she wished him good night: "I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much hon. Sweet dreams."
In an off-camera interview January 18 with ESPN, Te'o said a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was behind the hoax, saying Tuiasosopo had called him earlier this month to apologize. While Tuiasosopo or his father haven't talked publicly, his uncle recently defended him, saying, "It definitely takes two to tango."
Responding to reports Kekua may have been voiced by Tuiasosopo, Te'o said, "It sounded like a woman, but if (a man) somehow made that voice,... that's incredible talent to do that, especially every single day."
A near-death accident then a bout with leukemia
They planned to meet while he was in San Diego, but then she was severely injured in April after being struck by a drunk driver, Te'o said. He could have missed his flight to either Los Angeles or, eventually, Hawaii to be with her, but he didn't.
"It was a conversation that I didn't want to have with my parents," Te'o told Couric. "To say, 'Uh Mom, Dad, I missed my flight ... because I'm going to see Lennay in the hospital.' "
While she was in a coma at the hospital, Te'o said her relatives held a phone up to her ear and he talked. Nurses said the sound of his voice would cause her breath to quicken, and he'd hear the respirator and "the machines. It was very real."
She awoke from the coma, he said, as he was talking -- whispering his name and causing him to jump for joy, feeling he'd helped her.
"It goes back to what my parents taught me, to always be there for somebody when they need help," Te'o said.
There were more talks in the subsequent months, not just between the two but also involving Te'o's family. He said he was most hurt, most ashamed because the apparent hoax hurt not just him, but his father and mother.
"The belief in this person, the deception, wasn't only with Manti, it was our entire family," his mother, Ottilia Te'o, told Couric. "We had conversations with this person. So in our mind, we had followed the same pattern as Manti."
Te'o: 'I was just scared and I didn't know what to do'
Te'o said he was told that, on September 12, Kekua suddenly started to breathe hard, to sweat and, at 10:47 p.m., she died.
That was the same day his grandmother died. Three days later, he led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 rout of Michigan State, saying he had been inspired to honor the two women with his play.
"I miss 'em, but I know that I'll see them again one day," he told ESPN at the time.
Even in death, Kekua continued to come up in interviews and elsewhere. She was part of Te'o's story.
Then came the December 6 phone call, from a woman he first thought was Kekua's sister. But then, he recalled, "She said, 'No Manti, it's Lennay.' "
"There was a long silent pause," Te'o said. "And I was angered to say the least."
Despite his renewed doubts, he kept talking -- including at the Heisman presentation on December 8, when he referred to his girlfriend losing her battle with cancer. A Twitter picture sent later that month showing the girl he thought was Kekua, holding a sign with that day's date, convinced him it was all a lie.
But he still didn't know what to do, or what to say.