Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o quietly began dating a girl shortly after he came to believe "Lennay Kekua" had died from cancer, TMZ reported Friday

TMZ also reported Friday that Te'o discovered that Kekua, originally identified as a Stanford University student who was his girlfriend, did not exist in early December, but lied about it for nearly three weeks to avoid becoming a distraction for his team. During those 20 days, he supposedly struggled with withholding the truth and finally came clean to coaches Dec. 26.

Meanwhile, sources told TMZ that Te'o was already dating someone else. The Notre Dame star met Alexandra del Pilar the weekend of Nov. 10, when Notre Dame played Boston College.

Pilar, 21, is a student at St. Mary's College in Indiana, which is close to Notre Dame. The pair dated for nearly two months, but broke up recently.

Te'o has not commented on the matter since it was revealed earlier this week that Kekua never existed. Te'o had said that his grandmother and Kekua died within hours of each other, shortly before one of his biggest games of the season. The story became part of the lore of Notre Dame's winning season and Te'o's campaign for the Heisman Trophy (which he did not win).

Notre Dame officials claim Te'o was the target of a hoax.

Te'o supposedly "met" Kekua online, but never actually saw her face-to-face. Many remain convinced, however, that he concocted the story to make his performance on the field seem more heroic.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks.