Hawaii hometown backs Notre Dame star Te'o after girlfriend hoax
LAIE, Hawaii – People in small Hawaii hometown of Manti Te'o are offering support for the Notre Dame linebacker, after the story of his girlfriend and her death from Leukemia were revealed as a hoax.
No one answered the door Wednesday evening and no one appeared to be inside the modest, single-story wood home of Te'o's parents, Brian and Ottilia Te'o, in the small coastal town of Laie on Oahu's northern shore where Manti Te'o was born.
But members of the mostly Mormon community, a town of about 6,000 people about an hour's drive from Honolulu that is home to a small satellite campus of Hawaii's Brigham Young University, said they were dumbfounded, and didn't believe he would have knowingly perpetrated such a story.
Lokelani Kaiahua said Te'o's parents were her classmates, and she knew them to have strong family values they instilled in their children.
"I just don't see something like that being made up from him or having any part of that because they're not those kind of people," she said while sitting and talking with friends a few doors down from the Te'o family home. "Everybody's kind of like `what is going on?"'
According to media accounts that surrounded Te'o, an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalists, throughout the season, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia in September.
But on Wednesday the website Deadspin.com posted a lengthy story Wednesday saying there was no evidence that Kekua ever existed.
Notre Dame officials then confirmed the hoax but were insistent that Te'o was only the victim.
Te'o is a hero and role model to many children in Laie and nearby small towns like Haaula, Kaaawa, and Kahuku along the two-lane highway snaking through Oahu's northeastern coast.
Students at local Haaula often wear Notre Dame jerseys with his number "5" on them, and Te'o has returned to the area to talk to students about the importance of staying in school, said school administrator Makala Paakaula, 38.
"He always keeps giving back to his community," Paakaula said.
She said Te'o should be lauded for uniting Notre Dame during his senior year when he could have left for the NFL.
"It's amazing how he brought together the whole school to become one ohana, one family, where they all belonged, where they all had a purpose," she said.
Many residents expressed anger toward whoever was behind the entire affair.
"If he got hoaxed, that's not his fault -- shame on them," Paakaula said, "because he has a very trusting, open heart."