Te'o was confused. He finally confided in his parents over Christmas break in his home state of Hawaii and told Notre Dame coaches what was going on Dec. 26, according to Swarbrick.
"My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship," Te'o said. "There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end," but he offered her a "shoulder to cry on" when she told him her father had died.
Te'o said he was told Kekua was in a coma following an April 28 car accident, but she awoke the following month. He never made an attempt to visit her in the hospital.
"It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school," he told ESPN.
Then came the day in September when his grandmother died and the woman known as Kekua reached out to him.
"I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered," he told ESPN. "We got in an argument. She was saying, you know, I'm trying to be here for you. I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself. Last thing she told me was 'Just know I love you.'"
Te'o was told later that day Kekua had died.
ESPN did not play audio of the interview, relying instead on descriptions of Te'o and his statements from reporter Schaap. Audio clips were posted later. According to the reporter, Te'o was calm, and had no interest in going on camera.
"He was very relieved, he told me at the end of it, to have had a chance to tell his story," Schaap said.
Te'o told ESPN the relationship with Kekua dated to his freshman year at Notre Dame, the 2009-10 season, and they met via Facebook.
Te'o also provided details of just how devilish the hoax was — how Kekua spoke to his mother about Mormonism, how he could hear a supposed ventilator when she was in her coma, even how she sought his checking account number so she could send him some money (he declined).
At the Notre Dame student union early Saturday, many people didn't even seem to notice the story about Te'o playing out on television.
In the lounge section, six people watched ESPN as the report aired on TVs on opposite sides of the room and several said they weren't satisfied with what they saw and heard.
Tony Stedge, a freshman from Seattle, said he supports Te'o, but he'd still like to hear from the star player.
"I think he should be able to do it in his own time, whenever he is comfortable," he said.
Te'o's comments to ESPN though made it sound as if he is ready to put this all behind him — and Tuiasosopo.
"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."
He added: "I'll be OK. As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine."
Associated Press writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.