Ronaiah Tuiasosopo said he fell so hard for Manti Te'o over the course of their relationship that whenever he would try to break things off with the Notre Dame linebacker, he couldn’t do it, according to an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw.
McGraw appeared Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show, which aired two clips of the Tuiasosopo interview, ESPN reported.
A 22-year-old man from Southern California, Tuiasosopo said he felt compelled to create “Lennay Kekua” — the woman Te’o believed he’d been courting for more than a year over the phone— as the only way he could see to have a “romantic relationship” with the star football player.
"There were many times when Manti and Lennay have broken up," Tuiasosopo said, "but something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or Lennay's life or in this case my life."
As Notre Dame rose to No. 1, Te'o and his family provided sportswriters nationwide with plenty of stories of Te'o, the heroic, grieving athlete who persevered on the field after his "girlfriend" was diagnosed with leukemia and died. But it was all fiction. Deadspin.com broke the story earlier this month.
McGraw said he asked Tuiasosopo if he is gay.
"He said, 'Well, when you put it that way, yes.' Then he caught himself and said, 'I am confused,'" McGraw told NBC’s Mike Taibbi on a “Today” show segment that aired on Wednesday.
One theory for the hoax is that Te'o was trying to cover up his sexual orientation. In her TV interview with Te'o last week, Katie Couric asked him if he was gay. He gave quite a different response than Tuiasosopo:
“No, far from it. Faaaaarrrr from it,” Te'o said.
But Te'o added: "The feelings, the pain, the sorrow, that was all real."
McGraw said Tuiasosopo had feelings for Te'o.
"Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love," McGraw said.
According to TMZ, at an early age, Tuiasosopo created a "fantasy world" for himself in order to hide his sexuality. He felt crushing social pressure from 3 major forces in his life: the Samoan community, his church community and the football community.
Tuiasosopo's father, Titus, is a pastor who runs the Oasis Christian Church out of his home, as well as at a Methodist church in Palmdale, according to the Huffington Post. Today, because Christianity is so highly valued in Samoa, homosexuality is still stigmatized.
The same goes for football. Tuiasosopo comes from a football rich family tradition. Rev. Titus played offensive guard for University of Southern California in the early 1990s. His cousin, former University of Southern California football standout Fred Matua, died last August.
McGraw said he spent hours with Tuiasosopo and his parents, saying he had a number of life experiences that "damaged this young man in some very serious ways."
Tuiasosopo's interview with McGraw will air in two parts on the "Dr. Phil Show" starting Thursday.