Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Ohio State reporters Austin Ward and Ryan Ginn are visiting the Ohio State incoming freshman class. Throughout the year leading up to their debuts, Land of 10 will introduce the Ohio State fan base to the newest Buckeyes. Today, we feature running back Master Teague.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Master Teague has always had a vision for himself.
His parents, Corey and Emily, got an early example of what he was capable of when his natural athleticism paired with emerging self-confidence. Having first started playing football when he was 7 years old, he was 8 or 9 when he eyed up the garbage can on the driveway and decided he could hurdle it.
“Emily was like, ‘No, you’ll hurt yourself,’ ” Corey said. “I don’t know what I was thinking but I said, ‘Just go in there and try it.’ We sat there and watched him do it and I was like, ‘I guess he can.’ That was crazy.”
Over the following decade, Master Teague emerged as one of the premier running backs in the country, racking up thousands of yards and dozens of touchdowns at Murfreesboro’s Blackman High School en route to becoming a 4-star recruit and Ohio State signee. But everything that Teague represents and accomplishes — on or off the football field — is the result of unwavering faith in God.
Keeping the faith
The story of Master Teague includes countless instances of praise for his football exploits and off-the-field kindness, but it can’t be told without exploring what drives all aspects of his life. He is steadfast in his devotion to his faith — the Teagues are nondenominational Christians — that seems rare for someone of any age, much less an 18-year-old.
To hear him speak of it, though, requires asking about it. Teague has time for any classmate, teammate or fan who wants to discuss Jesus Christ with him, but he never pushes his thoughts onto those who don’t seek them.
The best way he can be an example to others is through actions, not words, and there’s never a day when Teague isn’t living out his faith.
“We have always taught our kids there’s Christians and then there’s Christ’s followers,” Emily said. “If you’re a Christ follower, you don’t really label yourself, you just allow Jesus to be the center of your life and you live with that perspective. I think, hopefully, we’ve put that in Master to where you don’t have to do any certain thing, you just read the Bible, pray, get guidance. Your life should reflect your faith. You shouldn’t have to push it on people.”
Teague lives out his faith through relentless kindness to others. He was revered by teachers at Blackman for his kindness and willingness to help out any classmate. Students who were bullied unfailingly found an ally in Teague, and underclassman football players tasked with setting up and putting away equipment before and after practice always were joined by the senior, who also happened to be an Ohio State commit.
At home, he’s the perfect older sibling to his 10-year old sister Molly and 8-year-old brother Myles.
“He loves his little brother and sister, and to me as a mom, he warms my heart,” Emily said. “He’ll get on their level still. Sometimes, they’ll be over there eating a snack or eating dinner, and they’re just cutting up, giggling, and laughing together. He does silly voices to make them laugh. We’ll be in the car riding somewhere and he’ll put on some beats on his phone, and they’ll come up with raps together.”
As a child, his relentless selflessness had some unintended consequences.
“When he was smaller, we would go trick-or-treating at the mall,” Corey said. “It’s a bunch of kids at the mall and so the lines can get long with the stores and we’re sitting there waiting for Master to be finished and wondering what’s taking him so long at the store. We look over there and he’s letting all the other kids in front of him.”
Landing an offer
Ohio State slow-played his recruitment a bit, and Blackman coach Kit Hartsfield attributed that in part to the Buckeyes needing to see if Teague had the mean streak necessary to play running back in the Big Ten.
In April 2017, Ohio State coaches visited Tennessee and watched Teague dominate a drill that the school took from former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel. The Hoot and Holler drill pits a running back against a defender, with the back fighting his way through the line before meeting a defender 1-on-1.
Knowing what he needed to do, Teague put on a savage performance that his coaches thought had finally landed him the coveted Ohio State scholarship offer.
“The things I think everybody was waiting on was to see his hands and to see if he was a mean kid on the field, because he’s not a mean kid at all off the field,” Hartsfield said. “Those top programs wanted to see if he had that switch, and that’s what Coach [Urban] Meyer was waiting on.”
But Ohio State still wanted to see him in camp before the offer came, leading to an all-or-nothing trip to Columbus in June 2017. Though everyone involved expected the offer to come because they knew what Teague could do in workouts, there was still the matter of actually doing it.
With Meyer watching, he ran two sub-4.40 40-yard dashes and posted a 42-inch vertical leap, validating what those close to him already knew.
“We see him run 4.3 (40-yard dashes) with his trainer on a Tuesday. We see him jump to get Elf on the Shelf off the highest shelf in our house,” Emily said with a laugh. “For me, it was great for him to finally be able to show what he can do.”
Teague got his scholarship offer in Meyer’s office and immediately accepted. Two days after the camp, he publicly announced his commitment, citing the Buckeyes’ ability to develop him as a player and a person.
Though his recruiting ranking didn’t always reflect it, Teague has the potential to be a game-changing weapon for Ohio State. Blessed with blazing speed — he ran 40-yard dashes at Alabama and Ohio State that were laser-timed in under 4.40 seconds — that began to emerge around age 10, Teague also has a bruising physique (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) that allows him to run between the tackles or succeed in pass blocking assignments.
As a junior, he rushed for 2,031 yards and 25 touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per carry. His senior year was cut short because of an ankle injury, but he still squeezed in 709 yards and 10 touchdowns in half a season.
“If there’s a hole, he’s gone,” said Hartsfield, who as the team’s former defensive coordinator used to watch Teague slice up his defense on a daily basis. “His acceleration and burst through the hole is so good, and he has a nose for the end zone. In practice, the only way to really tackle him is to hit him in the legs, and we’re not going to do that to our own guy. He’s just really hard to bring down, though. He’s not just an athlete who’s running the ball.”
His work in the weight room helped turn him into an imposing figure, looking more like a defender meant to break running backs in half. Hartsfield said he would put Teague’s work ethic up against any player in the country, noting that his running back once carried the ball more than 40 times in a game and was in the Blackman weight room at 8 the next morning to get in a workout.
“Every day I wake up and thank God for giving me another day, and I just want to work hard for Him and give Him the glory for everything I do,” Teague said. “God has given me talent, but I have to work hard to make the most of it. I’m grateful for every day I get and just want to do the best I can with the talent I’ve been given.”
Teague said his running was aided by calmness that comes from prayer. Before games, he’ll try to envision the success he wants. During games, he remains grounded by offering quick prayers of thanks when leaving the huddle or returning to the sideline. On occasion, he’s had what he describes as surreal visions of touchdowns right before they happen.
“When I’m on the field before a play, some plays I just know I’m going to score,” he said. “I don’t know why. It’s weird. I just get a feeling that I’m going to score, and I’ve always scored on those plays.”
His vision has never let him down, and it has carried him all the way to Ohio State.
Master Teague breakdown
|247Sports composite ranking (RB/overall)||No. 11/No. 228|
|Commitment date||June 11, 2017|