Persevering Through Injuries

This season has been the toughest physically on Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. A thumb injury forced him to come out of the Army and Pittsburgh games in back-to-back weeks. Also, in the last game against Louisville, Teel pulled a muscle in his ribs that limited what he could do. Compounding the frustration, the Cardinals came back from 18 points down in the second half to win the game.

"I have gotten hurt and beat up before, but not for such an extended amount of time," Teel said. "It's the same injuries, its such a nagging thing. I just want to do something to make it all better."

The Scarlet Knights had a lot of preseason expectations placed on them and many media pundits thought that Rutgers would at least challenge for a BCS bowl game.

Injuries plagued many keys members of the team including offensive tackles Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah, as well as safety Ron Girault. These injuries not only kept the players out of games, but also limited how much they could practice during the week.

"There are guys that have been in the NFL for 15 years that can't go a week without practicing and then go play in the game and be effective," Teel said. "For a lot of the guys, it has been season-long nagging injuries that have held them back just that much."

Despite the perception that the players might not be happy about going to a lower mid-tier bowl again, Teel and his teammates are embracing the chance of going to a new place.

In fact, this is the first time in school history that the Scarlet Knights are going to bowl game three years in a row. Rutgers went to the Insight Bowl in 2005 and the Texas Bowl in 2006.

"Anytime you get the opportunity to play in a bowl game or postseason game, from the practice reps that you get, to the quality of going to a bowl game," Teel said. "The whole experience is something you have to earn."

Teel said that his favorite experience of going to the Insight Bowl in Arizona was waking up on Christmas and being in warm weather. Teel attended Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and is instead used to shoveling snow late in December.

However, one of the most impressive things that Teel noticed in his two bowl trips was how well the RU fans travel.

"It is sacrifice," Teel said. "They have been great to us and great to this football program. I know just from my family, they had to sacrifice some stuff to go up there for three or four days it shows the loyalty this program has from its fan base and they have been extraordinary."

This season, Teel threw for 2844 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His main two targets were wide receivers Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt who both gained over 1000 yards and were recently recognized as All-Big East.

The injury to Teel's right thumb did hamper what he could do during football games. As the temperatures dropped, it became harder for him to grip the ball when making his throws.

Teel will have the next month to rest that thumb and pulled muscle. He hopes to be perfectly healthy come the International Bowl on Jan. 5th against Ball State. Until then, he has had a chance to sit back and think about this season and what the players that he came in with have accomplished.

"People said that four years ago, 'why would you do that. You're going to ruin your career. You're not going to come out to be anything,'" Teel said. "It's just the passion that Coach Schiano has, the vision that he has, and how he has taken the right steps along the road to get to where we are and there is still a long road ahead of us."

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