Last week, it emerged that the NFL star had been the subject of an elaborate hoax in which he was led to believe that his girlfriend Lennay Kekua had died of leukaemia on the same day as his grandmother, although it later emerged that the woman had been invented and apparently existed only online.
Te'o has now spoken out about the situation in an interview with ESPN, insisting that he was not involved with the hoax.
"I wasn't faking it," he said. "I wasn't part of this... When [people] hear the facts, they'll know. They'll know that there is no way I could be part of this."
Te'o explained that he had been called by alleged hoaxer Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who has reportedly taken responsibility for the hoax along with another man and a woman.
However, Te'o added that he had lied to his father and interviewers when he claimed that he had met Kekua, leading to several media reports to that effect.
"I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet and that alone - people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn't meet her as well," he said. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, 'Yeah, he met her before she passed away', so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude."
Te'o explained that he grew closer to Kekua both after she claimed that her father had died and after a car accident had supposedly left her in a coma.
He also suggested that he had not attempted to attend Kekua's purported funeral because her family had requested that he stay away, and revealed that his first hint that something was awry came on December 6 when he received a phone call from someone claiming to be Kekua, and still alive.
Te'o explained that he then contacted his team Notre Dame to tell them that she may not have passed away, prompting the team to begin an investigation.
"I didn't know what to believe," he said. "All I knew for sure in my head was that she died on September 12... There were a whole bunch of possibilities going through my head. She could have died. This could be [her alleged sister] trying to pull a stunt on me."
However, Te'o reportedly showed ESPN Twitter messages from Tuiasosopo, apologising for the hoax, and said he hopes the prankster "learns" from this.
"I hope he understands what he's done," he said. "I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."
Te'o is due to appear on Katie Couric's talk show later this week for his first on-camera interview since the controversy, while Tuiasosopo was recently rumoured to have auditioned for The Voice with an "insane" sob story.
View all of today's best celebrity pictures - Photo gallery: