Former Rutgers Captain Teel Becomes QB Coach

UNION, N.J. — Mike Teel became a face of college football in 2006 when he and teammate Ray Rice led Rutgers to its famous Louisville win and subsequent No. 7 ranking in the AP poll. But after parts of three years in the NFL, Rutgers University's all-time leading passer decided on a career change. Starting over, Teel is a month into his coaching career, handling QB duties at Kean University.

Decked out in blue and white, many Rutgers fans may not even recognize one of the leaders of the turn of the football program in 2006.

With the exception of a worn-down "Believe" bracelet in honor of former teammate Eric LeGrand, Mike Teel wears no reminders of his five years with the Rutgers football program. But that is the way Teel wants it as he separates himself from the player he used to be and the coach he wants to be.

Teel became the quarterbacks coach at Kean University, a Division III program in North Jersey, last month after the NFL lockout told him it was time to move on from his playing career.

"I had been thinking about it for a while and I just kind of sat down and really thought about what I wanted to do," Teel said while sitting in the Kean Alumni Stadium bleachers midway through his first training camp as a college coach. "Do I still love playing the game? Of course. If the lockout hadn't had gone and a team came to me in maybe January instead of two weeks ago, things might be different."

A sixth-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, Teel spent time under coach Jim Mora Jr., but lost his roster spot after the coaching change at the end of the season.

Teel spent a month on the New England Patriots' roster that offseason and another with the Chicago Bears.

But when the lockout struck and Teel was not signed with a team, he decided it was time to find a new calling and Kean was the perfect place to start a coaching career, he said.

Teel joined the coaching staff this summer. When the lockout broke, two NFL teams reached out to Teel, but the 25-year old's mind was made up.

"Thanks, but no thanks," Teel said. "If [the lockout] had been different, who knows? But the way it worked out, everything happens for a reason. I decided this is what I want to do. This opportunity came up to actually coach quarterbacks. I get to run my own meetings and almost control the pass game."

When Teel made the decision to coach, and end his playing career, he scrolled through his contacts list of former coaches.

A name-dropper's dream, Teel reached out to every coach he know for advice. Teel's call list included Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, his college offensive coordinator John McNulty, former Rutgers assistant and now-Bucknell head coach Joe Susan, former Seahawk mentors Jim Mora Jr. and Greg Knapp and legendary high-school coach Greg Toal, who mans the top-rated high-school team in the country this season in Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.).

Across the board, Teel received the same tip, and he took it to heart.

"They all said I should coach the [quarterback] position if I get the chance," Teel said. "I had some other opportunities where I could have been a [graduate assistant] or an offensive assistant, but not necessarily have a position and run meetings. But the quarterback coach opportunity came up and I said this is what I want to do."

From his roots at Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), high-school legend Greg Toal showed the same compassion he had for Teel as a player.

"Coach Toal, when I decided that I wanted to coach football, he was trying to talk me out of me," Teel said. "He was saying, ‘go play, play, play, play.' Finally, I said ‘Coach, I don't want to play anymore. I know what I want to do.' It just shows you how much he cares about one of his guys. It's the same for Coach Schiano. The guys that go down to Bosco, who head down the Turnpike, are going to have a really easy transition because of the way things are run."

Schiano coached Teel for five years at Rutgers and said he believes Teel has a great future as a coach and mentor to younger athletes.

"I knew Mike could be a very good coach and I'm glad to hear that he's doing well," Schiano said. "He's a bright guy and he loves the game. He's passionate about football and he's passionate about people. He really cares about people. As a coach, if you care about the kids and you have the knowledge, that's a great combination."

Teel said his time in the NFL taught him the most about quarterback position and that he hopes to pass that on to the Kean quarterbacks.

"When I got to Seattle, I really got coached hard on seeing the defenders and understanding our offense to the point where I knew where our guy was going to be based on what coverage they were playing and where the defender was," Teel said. "Greg Knapp, who is in Houston now, was a real grinder for that and I learned a lot from him. I'm so grateful I had the chance to work with him."

Teel learned of the opportunity at Kean thanks to his father's time with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. His father and Kean head coach Dan Garrett's father are both long-time employees.

Teel and Garrett met years ago and kept in touch. When the two met and discussed the opportunity, Teel joined the coaching staff.

"I think what he's done here at Kean is a lot like what Coach Schiano has done at Rutgers," Teel said. "When he first got here, they weren't too good. He's had a 9-4 season. He's built the program up.

"I have a decent degree of freedom with what I can do. I handle everything. We run kind of a spread offense. I'm really heavily involved in the pass game. All concepts that I've run throughout my career and I've seen from studying film help. I feel like I've brought a lot of experience and good ideas to the staff. The cool part about our staff is they listen to my ideas. Some are good, some are bad, but they take my input on everything and run with it."

Teel went from starting quarterback on a top high-school program, to a top-10 college program in 2006 to seventh-round NFL Draft pick, and he hopes to climb the ladder in a similar fashion in his new career.

"I need to be a teacher," Teel said. "A coach is a teacher on the field. You teach in the meeting room and you have to find a way to get your player to take it from the meeting room and do it out on the field. It's a lot different when you're sitting in an air-conditioned room than when you're doing it out on the field."

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