"Part of me was saying if you say that she's alive, what would everybody think? What are you going to tell everybody who followed you, who you've inspired? What are you going to say?
He added: "I was scared. That's the truth. I was just scared, and I didn't know what to do."
On Christmas Day, he sat down with his parents in Hawaii.
Parents defend Te'o: 'He's not a liar, he's a kid'
This conversation led to one with Notre Dame coaches and administrators. But the school was mum until the Deadspin story came out.
That was followed by many stories as well as speculation about what happened and why. Did Te'o help concoct the hoax to promote his Heisman hopes? He said no. Did he help invent this relationship because he's gay? That, too, isn't true, he said.
It's uncertain how this scandal will affect his standing in the upcoming NFL Draft, set for April. Te'o said he's hoping for the best, though most disappointed in how he's hurt his family.
"The greatest joy in any child's life is to make your parents proud," he said. "The greatest pain is to know that they are experiencing pain because of you."
On the "Katie" show, his mother said she's proud of how her son has handled this entire situation -- saying that, in befriending who he thought was Kekua, he showed he "always puts others before himself."
His father said it's easy to spot the red flags in retrospect. But he said this ordeal hasn't rattled his faith in his son.
"He's not a liar. He's a kid," Brian Te'o said. "He's a 21-year-old kid trying to be a man."