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NFL player on Manti Te'o's girlfriend: 'She is real'

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

The incredibly odd and disturbing tale of Manti Te'o's girlfriend -- believed to be an elaborate online hoax -- has another strange wrinkle.

Te'o and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick painted a picture of sick and twisted individuals looking to fool the Heisman Trophy runner-up, but at least one football player said differently on Wednesday night.

Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a believes that Lennay Kekua, the name given for Te'o's girlfriend, is real. On Wednesday he not only supported her existence, but told ESPN he met her in 2011.

"This was before her and Manti," Mauia told ESPN.com. "I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. 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."

The common thread between Mauia's story and the Deadspin report that rocked the world on Wednesday is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- one of the primary figures named in the report as an operator for the phony persona. Mauia told ESPN that Tuiasosopo was the one who introduced him to Lennay Kekua.

The whole story is a mess, but is possible that Te'o was not the only football player fooled by a person they believed to be Lennay Kekua.

For more college football news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCFB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, college football newsletter, and get the Eye On College Football Podcast from iTunes. You can follow Chip Patterson on Twitter here: @cnpatterson3.

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