True character is often revealed in the face of adversity. This season, Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel has faced his share of adversity and has responded with tremendous character. The fifth year-captain has dealt with his share of criticism, but never once has he offered any excuses for the offense's sluggish start .
"Mike handles it like a gentleman," said wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. "He just goes out there, does his job no matter what people say or think. He just goes out and continues to fight for us, for his teammates. We look up to him for that."
Teel's desire to win is evident every time he steps onto the field, whether it be during practice or in a game. And following each Rutgers loss, there has not been a more sullen face in the locker room. Throughout this rough stretch, Teel has learned some valuable lessons he will take with him off the football field.
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"I learned a lot about myself, more than just football," said Teel. "When football's done, I'm going to be in the real world just like everyone else. When you wake up one morning and something happens and you're late for work and everything's snowballing down on you, you take a step back and say this is nothing. I've been through a lot worse."
Some of the fans' frustration mutated in a spattering of boos directed at Teel and the offense during this past weekend's 12-10 win over UConn, which moved Rutgers to 2-5. After working so hard all year, such a response isn't likely to help the players overcome their own frustrations.
"They're not professional athletes," said head coach Greg Schiano. "That's what concerns me. The guy up the road at the Meadowlands isn't playing well, it's a different story. He's getting millions of dollars. This is a college kid. If they want to boo me, that's fine. I just ask people to consider what they're doing."
Teel has proven in the past that he is capable of putting up big numbers and lighting up the scoreboard. Perhaps more encouragement and less criticism would benefit Teel and the offense a lot more. Nevertheless, Teel has formed a positive approach to all the adversity that has come his way.
"In a way I thank it and I've welcomed all of it," said Teel. "Obviously, I wish the circumstances were a little better, but you can only look at it one way. It's getting me better and making me a stronger person. When something really bad does happen, I'll be ready for it."
So instead of lamenting the past, Teel started out this week ready to move forward and eager to face the next task at hand. That next task will come on the road against a 5-1 Pitt this Saturday.
"We get to go play on the road in a great environment in one of the nicest stadiums in the NFL," said a very optimistic Teel. "It's going to be a great experience for us and for a lot of the younger guys who have never been out there. It's a great time. They have great fans. It's going to be fun."
As he has done all season long, Teel will do more than quarterback the offense this week. He'll also continue to fulfill his role as a leader. It is a role that he has not shied away from regardless of the circumstances.
"Mike Teel is our offensive captain and he has done a tremendous job," said backup quarterback Domenic Natale. "He has shouldered a lot and been very composed during our tough start."
One remarkable quality about leaders is they tend to leave a lasting impression. After every tough loss, Teel has been one of the Scarlet Knights most anxious to return to work. Such an approach has also been apparent throughout the rest of the team.
"I think the one thing the guys on this team have done is just continue to come back to work week in and week out," Teel said. "When things haven't gone our way, guys get right back to the drawing board. So in a way, it makes it that much easier to want to practice and want to get better. We're all looking forward to this week."