Friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, told Deadspin he is the person who created Lennay Kekua, a fictitious persona with whom Te'o was allegedly duped into having an online relationship. The hoax went so far as to reportedly having Te'o believe that Kekua -- supposedly a 22-year-old Stanford student -- had died of leukemia Sept. 12.
The story of Te'o's emotional journey while playing in Kekua's memory riveted the college football world, especially as Te'o's star rose. He was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and the unbeaten Fighting Irish played for the BCS Championship before losing to Alabama, 42-14, on Jan. 7.
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But the sham relationship was exposed Wednesday by Deadspin, with Te'o and Notre Dame claiming he was a perfect mark.
At the center of the controversy is Tuiasosopo, supposedly an acquaintance of Te'o. Tuiasosopo was the starting quarterback for Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster as a sophomore in 2005. After moving to Stockton for a year, Tuiasosopo returned for his senior season at Paraclete High in Lancaster.
Deadspin reported that Tuiasosopo, who has videos on YouTube in which he sings secular and religious music, leads the band at the Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley, where his father Titus is the pastor.
Here is the Daily News story from Sept. 30, 2005, that details his family's football background and his potential as a quarterback prospect:
He's got a name: Tuiasosopo serves as A.V. signal callerBy Ramona Shelburne, Staff Writer
Sometimes it seems Ronaiah Tuiasosopo knows what you're thinking before you even have a chance to ask the question.
"Everybody asks about that," he said. "I'd play in basketball tournaments and people would see `Tuiasosopo' on the roster and they'd come up to me and ask, `Tuiasosopo, aren't you supposed to be a football player or something?' "
With a cousin, Marques, in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders; his father, Titus, a star lineman and tight end at USC; his uncle, Manu -- Marques' father, who played in the NFL with the 49ers and the Seahawks; and another cousin, Zach, playing for the University of Washington, Antelope Valley's sophomore quarterback Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has a big name to live up to.
Until last fall, he was making his name as a basketball player.
"It's the funniest thing," he said. "I never had thought of playing football when I was younger. I grew up playing basketball.
"Then freshman year, I came out for football and the coach told me to throw the ball. I did and I must've done OK because he turns to me and says, 'You're going to be our quarterback.' "
And so another Tuiasosopo began his football career in auspicious fashion. Teammates and coaches can't stop raving about his potential and natural ability.
"Trust me, he can do it," senior wide receiver Randy Burton said. "He's got all the ability. ... When he first came to our school, I knew he was going to be the one to do it for us. I was shocked when I found out he'd only been playing for two years."
The only thing he lacks, Burton said, is experience.
In practice, Tuiasosopo looks like a star. He has a strong arm, but can also throw with a soft touch. He's poised, possessing leadership skills well beyond those of a typical sophomore. He doesn't run like his older cousin Marques does, but he's learning.
But when it comes to games, he can look like a sophomore, which is a tough position to be in when you have a senior-laden team counting on you to run its offense.
"At first I was really nervous, I had so much pressure," he said. "It felt like everything was in a rush. It didn't matter if I messed up, I just wanted to get it over with. But I've come to learn if you take it play-by-play, breathe and relax, you'll get the hang of it.
"But everyone on the team has been really cool with me. I want to do it for them, for the seniors especially. And I'm learning that my job is to just manage the offense so I'm slowly building confidence in myself."
Tuiasosopo said he's leaned heavily on another cousin to help him get through the challenge of quarterbacking Antelope Valley as just a sophomore.
His cousin, Conan Amituanai, is a senior tight end/defensive tackle at Long Beach Poly.
"He's been my biggest inspiration," Tuiasosopo said.
Amituanai lost his mother, Aima, when he was in junior high. Aima Amituanai, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's aunt, passed away Jan 1, 2001, after collapsing while walking out of the Rose Bowl. Marques had just won the MVP award as Washington beat Purdue 34-24.
"It was really hard. But it brought the whole family together," Ronaiah Tuiasosopo said. "I'm really close to my cousin, Conan, we talk every day. He's been my biggest inspiration. Despite the fact that his mom passed away, he's continued to succeed and excel."
Tuiasosopo said he's also close with Marques, Matt (a top prospect in the Mariners' organization) and Zach, but because that side of the family lives in Washington, he doesn't see them as much.
"I love my cousins and all, but I don't just want to be known as Marques' little cousin," he said. "I want to do something, achieve something on my own."
Here's another story on Tuiasosopo from the Daily News:
Tuiasosopo's transfer boosts ParacleteBy Gerry Gittelson, Columnist
Once California's most feared small-school football program while winning five consecutive Southern Section titles from 1997 to 2001, Paraclete High of Lancaster could return to the spotlight, now that standout quarterback transfer Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has arrived.
Tuiasosopo, a 6-foot, 202-pound senior-to-be, is the son of former USC/Los Angeles Rams player Titus Tuiasosopo and the nephew of former NFL players Manu and Navy Tuiasospo.
"Ronaiah will have a huge impact," said Paraclete coach Norm Dahlia, who finished 5-5 last season.
Tuiasosopo was the starting quarterback at Antelope Valley High as a sophomore, passing for more than 700yards and nine touchdowns to help the Antelopes reach the 2005 Southern Section quarterfinals. At Franklin of Stockton last season, he completed just five passes for an ultra-conservative team that featured two 1,000-yard running backs.
He lived with an aunt last season before his father found a job as a Paraclete assistant, and now they're reunited.
"It's pretty good to be home again. I like it here at Paraclete," Ronaiah said. "It's pretty cool, and there's a lot of talent on this team."
Tuiasospo has grown two inches and put on 30 pounds of muscle since last fall, and he has drawn interest from several Pac-10 schools. He's also is a good student, with a a 3.3 grade-point average, and accomplished pianist.