"They're a joy to coach," said Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano of his two seniors. "We've been together a long time playing. It's different when you're playing. They're leaders and they've been on leadership council for a number of years. They're great young men. They're not kids anymore."
In 2004, a scrawny quarterback from Don Bosco Prep committed to the Scarlet Knights organization. A redshirt at first, Teel quickly learned by the time he started taking snaps behind center.
Healthy for the majority of his career, Teel has surpassed expectations. The Oakland, N.J. native has thrown for more touchdowns (57) than any other gunslinger in school history and more yards (9.064 and counting) too.
In the meantime, the skinny Underwood contributed as a true freshman kick returner and wide receiver. Still learning, "Ti" looked up the veterans for support.
"I would just say my freshman year, it was fun," Underwood said. "I didn't know much about college football and the program. And Brian Leonard, a guy I've looked up to my entire career. He came up to me, him and Shawn Tucker. Brian Leonard said, ‘One day you're going to be a star here.'"
Catching a break, "Ti" earned a starting role in his second year after Tucker, a former Rutgers wideout, suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
"Shawn Tucker, a fellow receiver who I've looked up to, said, ‘Continue to work hard and if you attack the ball, you could be one of the best ones at this school,'" Underwood said. "And I hung onto those words because when you looked up to somebody, you really listen to what they say. I kept those words in the back of my head and tried to make it a reality."
By his junior season, Underwood was able to turn a corner, breaking the 1,000-yard mark, in large part due to Teel's accuracy. Underwood said, ‘They just clicked.'
"Me and Mike, the same way we are on the field, we are off the field," Underwood said. "We're clicking, talking about the defense. We go to the girls' basketball games together, check them out. Me and him, we click. We're two cool people and we get along whether we're at the Hale Center, on the field during gameday or just hanging out at the mall."
"We talk about football," he said. "[Underwood's] one of my best friends. We kind of grew up together in the program. We always talk about football, our friends in the NFL, NFL games, college player, college games, and football junkies. We love talking about it, we love watching it. Obviously we love to do other stuff too."
But Underwood said he disagrees about how much they discuss football when away from practice or game day.
"A little bit but not as much," Underwood said. "When we're away from football, we're kind of away from it. [Teel] does but he's the quarterback. I'm talking about other things, going to the mall, getting a pair of sneakers. He's a football guy. From sunup to sundown that's his thing. But me personally I try to get away from it when I'm away from the Hale Center."
That close bond also extends to Schiano for both Teel and Underwood.
"Just the way he goes about things, the way he has his staff coach us, the way he talks football and the way he just talks life—makes sense," Teel said of Schiano. "He said you would get your degree, which I finished with my last final last night. He said you would come and play competitive Big East football with a chance to win the title, which we've had for two years in a row; three years really we've had a chance. And he said you would have a chance to play in front of a national TV audience, which we've had."
Underwood said he enjoyed the ride.
"We have a great relationship," Ti said of Schiano. "I just try to be a player he can count on because he's going to go to war for you and he wants guys who believe in what he preaches. I try to be that guy. I'm happy I've come here. It's been a great ride. These great players and this great coaching staff-- I wouldn't trade a day for it."
Teel & Underwood Clicking Again
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