Even so, Te'o never tried to visit Kekua at her hospital in California.
"It never really crossed my mind," he said, according to ESPN.com. "I don't know. I was in school."
But the communication between the two was intense. They even had ritual where they discussed scripture every day, Te'o said. His parents also participated via text message, he said, and Te'o showed Schaap some of the texts.
ESPN's 2 1/2-hour interview was conducted in Bradenton, Fla., with Te'o's lawyer present but without video cameras. Schaap said Te'o was composed, comfortable and in command, and that he said he didn't want to go on camera to keep the setting intimate and avoid a big production
According to ABC News interviews and published reports, Te'o received phone calls, text messages and letters before every football game from his "girlfriend." He was in contact with her family, including a twin brother, a second brother, sister and parents. He called often to check in with them, just as he did with his own family. And "Kekua" kept in contact with Te'o's friends and family, and teammates spoke to her on the phone.
"There are a remarkable number of characters involved. We don't know how many people they represent," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference this week. "There are male and female characters, brothers, cousins, mother, and we don't know if it's two people playing multiple characters or multiple people.
"It goes to the sophistication of this, that there are all these sort of independent pieces that reinforce elements of the story all the way through," he said.
One of Te'o's teammates who asked not to be identified told ABC News that it was normal for Te'o to pass his phone around to teammates when he was on the line with "Lennay" so they could say hello to her. "I talked to her," this teammate said. "I wasn't suspicious."
When Te'o got the call telling him that Lennay had died last fall, he was in the locker room, the teammate said.
"He got real emotional, crying," the teammate said. "He's an emotional guy."
The teammate said he thinks Te'o genuinely got hoaxed.
A newly released transcript of Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel's Sept. 23 interview with Te'o gives a hint at the staggering depth of the deception.
Te'o's knowledge about the details of his girlfriend's life was often murky, including her majors in school, occupation and extent of her injuries after the alleged car accident.
What he was absolutely clear about was how much time he spent in contact with her, especially while she was in the hospital recovering from the car accident, which led to the discovery of her leukemia.
"I talked to my girlfriend every single day," Te'o told Themel. "I slept on the phone with her every single day. When she was going through chemo, she would have all these pains and the doctors were saying they were trying to give her medicine to make her sleep. She still couldn't sleep. She would say, 'Just call my boyfriend and have him on the phone with me, and I can sleep.' I slept on the phone with her every single night."
He would spend eight hours a night with someone, somewhere, breathing on the other end, he told Thamel.
Te'o recounted how his girlfriend who was "on a machine" after being in a coma.
"We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice," he said. "It was just a trippy situation."