But an investigation by the Gawker Networks website Deadspin uncovered an elaborate hoax involving several fake Twitter and Instagram accounts which suggested that Te’o girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed.

Te’o shared the story with journalists from America’s biggest news sources including ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

Sensationally, Te’o University countered Deadspin’s article, by suggesting that it was in fact Te’o who had been taken in by hoaxers.

“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia [sic].”

However elements from the reports of Te’o’s story don’t appear to tally with the notion of an internet hoax.

In a Sports Illustrated article it was claimed Te’o slept with a phone so he could hear his girlfriend breathing.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’o said in a statement.

“We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

%TNT Magazine% teo

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

The twitter account set up under the name Lennay Kekua appears to be linked to a person called Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who reports claim is an acquaintance of Te’o’s.

Te’o, a devout Mormon from Hawaii, has the support of his university.

Images via Getty