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Warriors star signs with Michigan State

In three years as a starter, Jason Teague rushed for 4,504 yards and 50 touchdowns.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002

Osceola coach George Palmer remembers one play that epitomizes the indomitable spirit of his star running back, Jason Teague.

Against Palm Harbor University three years ago, Teague, then a sophomore, asked if he could block a field goal attempt, even though he had never practiced special teams.

Hesitant at first, Palmer finally agreed. Teague blocked the attempt and the ball lodged under his arm. He carried it 58 yards for the winning touchdown.

"It could be third and 18 or we could be down by 21 points and Jason would not get frustrated," Palmer said. "He always felt something good was going to happen."

Teague kept that same positive outlook off the field. Despite recruiters who said he was too short or too slow, Teague remained dogged in his pursuit of playing at a Division I school.

His relentlessness paid off Wednesday when he signed a letter of intent to play for Michigan State.

"Gosh, I couldn't be happier for a kid," Palmer said. "I don't know if we've ever worked harder to get a kid noticed."

At first glance, Teague signed, albeit late, with the school that showed the most interest in him before his senior year began. But it wasn't that simple.

Teague's path to getting a scholarship was filled with obstacles. In fact, Teague had fallen so far off the radar screen, he was going to play for Arizona Western Junior College until the Spartans' last-minute call.

His odyssey began at a combine in spring 2001. Despite his size (5 feet, 9 1/2 inches, 182 pounds), Teague got Michigan State's attention with a 37-inch vertical leap and a 4.55-second 40-yard dash. Teague said the Spartans would have made him an offer had he academically qualified.

Teague had not qualified but was determined to change that. He raised his SAT score from 720 to 920 to 1,120. His GPA was close to 3.0. Still, the attention went elsewhere, even though Teague had rushed for 4,504 yards and scored 50 touchdowns in three years as a starter.

Enlisting the help of Palmer and his mother, Sandra, Teague sent out more than 100 tapes and letters. Schools would call only to tell him they had someone else.

"Once two or three schools decided not to offer, others would see that and follow their lead," Palmer said. "It just snowballed."

Without a four-year scholarship, Teague started looking at junior colleges. That turned out to be difficult, too. Palmer said most junior colleges were skeptical because Teague had qualified and had Division I talent.

"They didn't know his story," Palmer said.

The story had a better ending. Michigan State called in May after losing two running backs in the spring. Teague took his scheduled visit Tuesday and signed a day later.

"It's a relief to know where I'm going to school," Teague said. "It was a hard thing to go through, but I was never too frustrated.

"I knew something would come up. I knew I was going to go to school somewhere and play football. Now, I can concentrate on doing that."

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