The former Notre Dame star made national headlines in 2013 when Deadspin revealed Manti Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, did not exist

By Jason Duaine Hahn
September 01, 2020 03:52 PM
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Manti Te'o/Instagram

Manti Te’o has found true love after all.

The former Notre Dame football star recently married girlfriend Jovi Nicole Engbino during an oceanside ceremony in La Jolla, California, he revealed in an Instagram post on Monday.

"I couldn’t give you the world but I think I did better … I gave you my last name and it looks good on you Mrs. Te’o," the 29-year-old — now an NFL free agent — wrote in the caption of a series of photographs that showed the newlyweds taking a stroll along the beach in their wedding attire.

"Yesterday I got to marry my best friend and the love of my life in an intimate beach ceremony," Engbino added on Instagram. "Although this was not how we envisioned our ceremony, it was perfect. We will be having our reception and celebration when Temples and venues open back up so we can share this special occasion with our families and I couldn’t be more excited."

In 2012, Te'o made national headlines when he said his then-girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had died after battling leukemia. 

"She's the most beautiful girl I have ever met, not because of her physical beauty but because of her character and who she is, she's just that person that I turn to," Te'o told ESPN at the time, according to CNN.

Te'o also said his grandmother died just six hours before Kekua in September of that year. Te'o claimed these tragedies inspired him, and he eventually helped Notre Dame reach the BCS National Championship during his senior year.

"I cried, yelled, never felt that way before," he told ESPN of hearing of Kekua's death. "Six hours ago I just found out my grandma passed away, and then you take the love of my life — the last thing she said to me was, 'I love you,' and that was it."

But an investigation by Deadspin published in Jan. 2013 found no evidence Kekua ever existed. Not only were there no records of her, but the pictures Te'o said were Kekua's were discovered to be of a 22-year-old woman from Torrance, California, who said she never met the athlete.

Deadspin's report revealed Te'o and Kekua's supposed relationship did not start in-person as the footballer had suggested, but over Twitter in Oct. 2011. It was eventually reported that Te'o was the victim of a catfishing prank planned by three people, one being an acquaintance.

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Te’o told ESPN that he had never met Kekua in person, and her picture was always blocked whenever they spoke over video chat. After being told of Kekua's death, Te'o said he felt uncomfortable telling the media he had never met her.

"I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet," he said. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away."

Te’o has kept a positive attitude on social media in the years since the controversy. On Monday, he thanked his Instagram followers for their well-wishes following the ceremony and asked them to do a good deed for others.

"In a time that we need more love, in a time that we need more light, it can start with us, it starts with the person you see in the mirror in the morning," he said. "I'm constantly trying to do my part."