Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Takes 2 Steps Forward

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Takes 2 Steps Forward

Article excerpt

When Mike Teel was a high school senior, quarterbacking North Jersey's most dominant program to a state championship, going to Rutgers to continue his football career wasn't an easy, or popular, decision. But Teel was intrigued by the gauntlet thrown down by this relatively new Rutgers coach, drawn to the challenge of building his state university into a nationally respected program.

Under the guidance of Greg Schiano and alongside a future NFL star at running back, Teel did his part, pushing Rutgers into our collective sports consciousness with a breakout 2006 season. From those fields of Don Bosco Prep to the turf in Piscataway, Teel helped lay the path that has Rutgers at the most important breakout moment in school history.

With today's announcement that Rutgers is joining the Big Ten athletic conference, a vision that only existed in the minds of Greg Schiano, of Mike Teel, of Ray Rice will come true under the direction of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. The head-spinning wheel of conference fortune has dropped Rutgers off in sports heaven, completing a long, rough road from nationwide laughingstock to national respect.

Teel was in his New York City office Monday, heading into a meeting for his job in wealth management with UBS, when his phone kept buzzing with texts, emails and updates from his Rutgers brethren. Like so many schooled in the lessons of Rutgers dread, he almost expected the news wouldn't, couldn't actually be true. But as colleagues began confirming and congratulating him -- a friendly ribbing from a Michigan alum, a grudging nod from a Boston College grad -- Teel's chest swelled with pride. His school, his dream, his legacy was now tied to one of the best academic and athletic unions on the college landscape.

"Ultimately, when I decided to go to Rutgers, this is what I wanted to be a part of, and the program has grown so much since then," the 26-year-old Oakland native said. "To see that vision, to remember when it was only a vision, to look back as a New Jersey high school player and say I was one of the first, not the first but one of them, to take that chance, it's something I'll be proud of forever."

Teel's initial reaction -- "It makes me want to go back and play again," -- is reflective of the deep well of enthusiasm that envelops the campus today, and indicative of how much Rutgers alums have been waiting for this news. Schiano, now head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucs, was circumspect in his reaction given the unofficial status of the news, but he did say in a statement, "Rutgers, and the people that make up Rutgers, hold a very special place in my heart. I want whatever is best for the university, its students and the athletic program."

This is the very best. Rice, now a Pro Bowl running back for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, stood alongside the likes of Teel, of current Bengals fullback Brian Leonard, current Titans receiver Kenny Britt and NFL brothers Devin and Jason McCourty to push Rutgers to a resonant upset of then-No. …

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