08:43 PM EDT 10/21/2013
Originally posted 01/23/2013 03:30PM
Yes, University of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o tells Katie Couric in a new interview, he continued to tell the tale of Lennay Kekua after he realized she might not be real. But he's really a stand-up guy and a great boyfriend, says his real-life ex-girlfriend, Alexandra del Pilar.
Del Pilar, 21, describes her ex as a kind, gentle family man with a big heart who genuinely loved Lennay Kekua, who allegedly died of leukemia Sept. 12, though that turned out to be a hoax.
"Lennay was often brought up in conversation," Del Pilar, a junior at Notre Dame sister school St. Mary's College in South Bend, Ind., who met Te'o in November and dated him until earlier this month, tells PEOPLE. "I wanted to know about her, and how they did the long distance. He definitely [loved her]."
Del Pilar says Te'o, 22, proved equally devoted to her, regularly checking in before and after games when he was on the road – and he introduced her to his family.
Originally posted 01/19/2013 08:45AM
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has broken his silence on the topic of the his "dead" girlfriend, telling ESPN Friday night that he played no part in the bizarre hoax.
"I wasn't faking it," the star athlete, 21, told the sports cable network's Jeremy Schaap during the 2½-hour, off-camera interview. (Te'o's comments, which were all in front of his lawyer, were later released by ESPN.) "I wasn't part of this."
Te'o did admit, however, that he "tailored" his tales so that others would assume he had "met her before she passed away."
Top 10 News Categories
The most buzzed about stars this minute!
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
More On PEOPLE.com
Got a News Tip?
Send it to our People.com editors!