Sports fans lapped it up. He was a hero with a halo.
Until, that is, the article appeared on Deadspin, the same site that in 2010 published explicit pictures allegedly sent by NFL quarterback Brett Favre to a New York Jets sideline host.
Now, he's the butt of jokes and the center of swirling questions about whether he or someone else is behind the hoax.
Deadspin said it had traced the hoax to a former classmate of the woman whose face appears in the Twitter profile of Te'o's alleged girlfriend.
The woman, according to Deadspin, had no knowledge of the hoax but said she recalled the classmate asking her to send him photos of herself similar to those used in the profile.
Te'o did not answer a call to his room at a Florida training facility, where he is preparing for the NFL combine.
CNN has not been able to locate the man Deadspin named in its article as being behind the hoax.
However, Te'o tried to clear up some of the speculation with a statement Wednesday.
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over several months I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," he said. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
But David Haugh, a Chicago Tribune sports columnist, said Te'o has more explaining to do.
"It doesn't add up. Obviously the explanation, it bears further explanation," Haugh said.
"I think you want to hear from Manti Te'o himself beyond the statement. Because if he is truly a victim of a cruel hoax, as Notre Dame put it, then he has nothing to hide."