George Teague has lived the football dream
From "The Strip" at 'Bama to the 101-yard TD in Green Bay to blasting T.O. off the Star, it's been one hell of a ride for this NFL safety defined by iconic moments.
This is what leaving a legacy truly looks like in every sense of the word.
When you think of George Teague, you think of a specific moment in time. You think of a pick, a hit, a fumble, something special. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl. He didn’t win a Super Bowl. But the longtime NFL safety had a handful of iconic moments that’ll certainly live on forever and, hey, isn’t that what this game’s all about?
This week, Go Long relived it all with Teague…
… The National Championship at Alabama. His pick-six, followed by the “The Strip” just a few plays later keyed a shocking 34-13 Sugar Bowl win over mighty Miami. We’ll likely never see another play like the latter, either. It technically didn’t count with ‘Bama jumping offsides on defense but the play was unprecedented nonetheless. Teague chased down Miami’s Lamar Thomas to tomahawk and swipe the ball right away from him. He still cannot comprehend the physics of this.
… The 101-yard interception return for a touchdown that keyed the Green Bay Packers’ first playoff win in 11 years, and their second in 26 years. That ’93 Wild Card win, in Detroit, catapulted the franchise. No team has made the postseason more often since. Teague still treasures his three seasons with the Packers.
… The weight he mysteriously lost that ‘93 season. While he was turning the Packers into a winner, a thyroid condition drove him mad.
…Blasting Terrell Owens off “The Star” in Dallas. Teague eventually moved on to Dallas where he lit up the Hall of Fame receiver trying to celebrate on the team’s logo at midfield. He was ready for a 12-round fight with Owens, too. And as you’ll see, there’s no love lost between the two.
Teague played nine seasons in the pros with 463 tackles, 15 interceptions for 354 yards with two scores, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. In his 12 playoff games, Teague was at his best. In one of Dallas’ playoff wins — a 40-15 blowout of Minnesota — Teague forced three turnovers on three straight possessions. His career’s always been defined by plays that changed games. And, surely, many Cowboys fans remember Teague sprinting onto the field with the American flag in his hand after 9/11.
Since retiring, Teague has been coaching high school football for 18 years.
Today, he’s the head coach at John Paul II High School in Plano, Texas.
No doubt, the man has stories to share with all of the kids on his team, too.
I can’t think of many guys who’ve had as many iconic moments as you. We’ve got “The Strip.” We’ve got T.O. on the star. We’ve got the 101-yard interception return against the Lions in the playoffs. To you, what comes to mind?
Teague: For me, it’s rooted a lot deeper than that because I didn’t even want to play football when I was just getting into high school. I was going to play soccer. Being a military brat, and living overseas, I had a different passion for European football. I was actually on a German team when I was in middle school. So, I was pretty damn good soccer player. When I came back to the States, and we moved to Alabama eventually, that’s the first time I really had to make a choice between football and soccer. I actually chose soccer. But then my Mom got to me and said, “Hold on, let’s talk about this.” And she really talked me through the position I needed to play — because I wanted to be a running back. I was kind of small at the time. She convinced me to go out and try to play defensive back. And so, in 10th grade, that’s when it truthfully hit.
How did she know your future was in football?
Teague: That is a great question. I haven’t had the opportunity to ask her that because she passed away. But it was having a Mom who actually wants you play football — a lot of times Moms don’t want you to do that. I’ve got six older brothers and two older sisters. I am the baby. So maybe she just saw something in how our family was wired, that I needed to play football.
What was your upbringing really like in a military family? You lived in Germany?
Teague: I did live in Germany for four years. We moved all over the country. I was born in Michigan and obviously have been in Alabama. I lived in Kansas, in Florida, Alaska, Louisiana, Japan. My upbringing wasn’t bad because we were cultured and got to see a lot of different places and meet a lot of friends. And being on the base was different — it shielded you from a lot of things. That was the most difficult thing once I got to Alabama. Because that was the first time I actually lived off base. That’s when you start to see racism. A different culture I didn’t have to deal with because we lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. It’s weird to talk about it in our lifetime but they were busing the black kids to white schools to work on integration in the 80s. So there was a school five minutes down the road from me but I had to be driven 30 minutes across town to get to school.
So, it was difficult for me. I wasn’t used to that type of lifestyle because we didn’t see any color being on the base.
You’re exposed to every different type of person in your childhood.
Teague: When you’re visiting places like Turkey and you’re all over Germany, you tend to work with each other. Other races. Other people from other countries. It really wasn’t even a thought. That’s why I quickly learned (racism) is taught — if you’re going to be like that. And I wasn’t.
What did your Dad do in the Air Force?
Teague: My Dad was a civil engineer in the Air Force. He served for 25 years. So he worked with waste and water — doing the dirty work, man! He made sure everybody’s toilets got cleaned up and flushed the right way and went to the right place without getting everybody sick.
When I came to Alabama — we were stationed there a couple years, going into my 11th grade year — he got restationed again, in Turkey. So I’m thankful for my parents because they allowed me and my Mom to stay stateside where I wouldn’t have to graduate in Adana, Turkey. Because one of my brothers did graduate overseas in Germany. So they said, “Hey, he’s got things rockin’ and rollin’ over here,” so my Mom stayed stateside when he went back to Turkey. I finished at Jefferson Davis High School, which led to me getting a scholarship at the University of Alabama.
With your playing days — with the Crimson Tide — I imagine you get asked about that Sugar Bowl, what, a couple times every week?
Teague: It does. I think something’s going on, on Twitter, right about now. The Alabama stuff is huge. It’s hard for me to think, man, we’re coming up on the 30-year reunion pretty soon of the National Championship Game. It’s cool to be known and recognized for something that’s lived on that long. A play that really wasn’t a “play.” And the interception. And I think we were the only team to go 13-0 because of the way the bowl games were set up then. I had great days at Alabama. I have no regrets whatsoever about playing there, choosing there. Bill Curry brought me in. Then a year later, he was gone. Then, Coach Stallings came in. So that was bittersweet as well because you never know how a new coaching staff will feel about you when you’re not “their guy.” You have to compete for playing time. Because I wasn’t redshirted as a freshman. So that was another scary moment growing up. You’ve got to prove yourself all over again.
Like you said, that play (“The Strip”) didn’t count but the ‘Canes could’ve scored that touchdown and declined the offsides penalty. You were out of position, right? And you were just trying to bust ass to make up for it? What’s going through your head during a play we won’t see ever again?
Teague: Yeah, I was winded. I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where I was so emotionally charged. The energy you have to spend to play in that game — and I just had the interception for a touchdown. And then chasing him down was taxing. I was already winded before the play. So, I did the cardinal sin in saying, “OK, I’ve got some good guys. I can take this play off. And hopefully nothing will happen.” Well, that didn’t work! They found the window, the spot, I was watching Willie Gaston cover the guy and he was in great position. I guess he got out of position somehow and I thought, “Oh Lord” — those aren’t the words I used. I knew then, I had to do what I could to try to go get him. And one thing led to another. I wasn’t thinking of taking the ball at that point. The first thing was, “Catch him. Tackle him.” Then, it was “Well, I’m going to catch him so strip it.” Then, once we got there, it was “Catch him, strip it, use all the things we’ve been taught.” Then, lo and behold, the ball’s in my face — “grab it, go the other way.”
It’s amazing to see in real time. You broke it down so meticulously there but it happened just like that.
Teague: It did. But I think that’s part of the mind of an athlete. We have to slow things down while you’re playing the game so you can actually calculate where you have to go, what you have to do. The more you do that in practice, the more that part of your game can speed up so you’re not actually thinking through the play. The way I was talking about it really was how it was happening in those eight seconds. Like, “Oh my Gosh.” And I remembered in strip drills — is it the tomahawk or is it the punch-out, which way am I going to do this? So it lined up perfectly like practice. Because we used that drill so much. Bill Oliver, give him credit for that. He was our defensive coordinator at ‘Bama. We just worked on taking the ball away, taking the ball away, taking the ball away, so it was natural. It was just, “Which way am I going to do it?” after I caught him. The tomahawk was the way to go and, man, physics and the rest of it is kind of weird to me because I’m hitting the ball down and it’s coming up.
It doesn’t make any sense.
Teague: (Laughs) Nope! That’s when you say, “Hey, certain things are meant to happen.” Fate takes over. It was the right time and the right place. It definitely elevated my game and my draft stock as well.
Five plays before that, you had the pick-six. Bang-bang and your life is different forever — just like that — in so many ways, isn’t it?
Teague: It definitely changed the landscape of our family. We’ve done well as a family. To be able to play in the National Football League — and change the dynamic of our family financially — was huge. It set us on a different path.
That ability to slow something like that down to a crawl, and process everything at your speed, is that a big reason you’ve had so many career-defining moments? And where did that come from?
Teague: I think the disciplines you have to have as a child in a large family and a Dad who’s a serviceman, you’re already wired a little bit different. But what I’ve learned — even through the times now — that’s just a gift that a lot of professional athletes have: The ability to dissect and react in ways certain people can’t. You can process it. And then repeat it again without having to necessarily study a formula on how to do this. It’s just repeated actions and getting really, really good at it. Because it started when I was in third grade, chasing people down. Playing silly games like ‘British Bulldog, ‘Red Rover, Red Rover.’ You’re just playing crazy games and trying to analyze, “How do I break through this fence? Through this wall? Without getting hurt?” It started a long time ago and it just becomes second nature. Now, you’re on a big stage and it doesn’t matter who’s around you because you don’t hear it. You don’t hear all the crowd noise during a play. You don’t see or sense all that stuff. You’re really in your own little bubble and focus so much. That’s why you see guys making crazy plays — the Michael Jordans.
There are probably some professional athletes’ whose heart rates race way, way too fast in that moment. You can see it with some quarterbacks in big moments — that’s why that quarterback fails in big moments again and again. Other athletes can just be calm in those moments, can’t they?
Teague: Yes, it’s very scientific. It really is the mental aspect of professional athletes need to have to be really, really good and last nine, 10, 15 years, 20 years in the league. I think the average is still about the same — 3.3 years. It starts with Day 1 in camp. You’ve got six weeks — it’s shorter now — but you’ve got six weeks to pretty much learn the doggone playbook. And execute it. People don’t understand that grind of what camp is. All they see is you playing that Saturday in a preseason game. But the pace of information that you’re learning that first week or two before that first game, and then you have to perform at a high level, that’s where guys get lost. They don’t make it because they can’t take the information learned and play at the speed these veterans are playing at. Especially at defensive back. Now you have to run backwards, turn, process all the coverages, make the play on the ball, tackle. It can be very overwhelming to some people and they crash and burn pretty fast.
The Green Bay Years
When you get to Green Bay, you were there for the rise. This was a franchise that was dead for 30 years. Nobody wanted to play for the Packers. You probably didn’t want to play for the Packers. What was it like to be right there for this renaissance?
Teague: Before I got drafted, the one thing I said whenever someone asked me, “Where do you want to go play?” — I did know where I didn’t want to go. I said, “The one place I don’t want to go is Green Bay.” And that wasn’t because I didn’t like the Packers. The only thing I knew about Green Bay was the weather. Every time I saw them on TV, it seemed like they showed the coldest games possible. The Ice Bowl and the snow everywhere, it’s like “Good Lord, I don’t want to do that.” Probably three or four picks before, (general manager) Ron Wolf called me before they drafted me and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about taking you, but we wanted to know if you’d come and play for us.” (Laughs) I’m like, “Oh, gosh! This is really happening!?” It was a total shock because I wasn’t expecting to go in the first round. I thought I’d be a third-round pick. Maybe a fourth-round pick.
I was listed as a sixth-round pick. And after the Sugar Bowl, my stock went up. So when they called to say, “We’re going to trade up for you to come get you in the first round,” of course I was just delighted. Like, “Yeah!”
It was like a movie, a soap opera just watching it. Then, I started getting nervous because they made the trade and — at that time — the picks were at 15 minutes. So, I thought it’d be quick after they made a trade. But it wasn’t. They took the whole 15 minutes to turn in the doggone sheet.
Being around Brett Favre, Reggie White, how could you tell things were structurally changing?
Teague: Brett came in when I did and it was very good to see how he was developing because you could see the talent he had. And then you had a guy like Reggie White coming in. You had studs on defense. LeRoy Butler holding it down out there. Terrell Buckley out on the corner. Sterling Sharpe. You could see greatness starting to be built. Once we made it into the playoffs that first year I was there — just getting into the playoffs — I knew that was the beginning of something that was going to be special.
I came in as a corner. They moved me to safety, literally in the middle of a Minnesota Vikings game, and I did not know safety. They just said, “George, next series, you’re going in at safety.” Literally in the game. I’m like, “What!?” “Yep, you’re going in!” It was like dropping the kid in the pool and telling him to swim. Man, I was out there making all kinds of calls. I could see the team looking at me, like, “What in the world is wrong with this dude?” Because I was all frazzled and shaken up. I calmed down, got my feet under me and that’s when we started to really develop.
The 101-yard INT return in the playoffs at Detroit. Is that something you saw in your mind the night before? Did it just kind of happen? Obviously, there’s Favre-to-Sharpe later in the game but you guys do not win without your pick-six.
Teague: I give Dick Jauron credit for that. It’s amazing how many coaches we had on that staff. Our staff, man, we had Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg and Dick Jauron and Steve Mariucci, Jon Gruden. They all were there. Ray Rhodes. We were stacked. These guys were very, very good coaches. Coming into that play — and you can do it all on the computer now — but the tendencies were all written out and drawn out on paper. Kids don’t know what a playbook looks like now because it’s all online. But back then, you had the big three-ring binders, or five-ring binders. You had every play in there that you had to study. Part of it was tendencies: “When they lined up on this hash, this formation, these are the plays you’ve got.” For me, it was a studying process — How can I give myself an advantage to at least take a calculated risk. Not a gamble. But a calculated risk on when I could jump something? And that was one of those plays. If it was 80 percent, 90 percent, 100 percent they do this, I was breaking a lot of technique at that point. The coaches didn’t like it — “You’re going to get burnt, Teague! Stop doing that!” I’m like, “Nah, man. You handed me this book. I’m going to go for it.”
Basically, when he let the ball fly, I was already breaking. You’re just trying to be slick enough to bait him into it so he’ll throw it. That was the turning point in my life and my career. For sure. Because that was the signature moment. That was the play that catapulted me.
You’re shot out of a cannon. It really is like you were in their huddle when you re-watch that play. So, you saw it the whole time and said, “I’m going for it?” And if you’re a DB, you either have the balls to jump that play or you don’t — does it basically come down to that?
Teague: That is exactly right. Some people would just try to make the tackle or try to knock it down. Some of us will try to do more than that and take the risk to try to make the game-changing play. That’s how I always played. That’s probably one of my favorite plays out of my whole career even though people don’t talk about it as much as the other things. But it’s one of my favorite plays because, at that time, I was very, very sick. Not sick from the flu. I did not know it at the time but I probably lost like 20 pounds if you look at how thin I was. And I didn’t know what was going on.
So after that game — later on — I realized I had Graves’ disease. I had a problem with my thyroid. I could not hold any weight. My metabolism was running way too fast. I thought it was the stresses of football, of marriage, I had a kid. Here I am in Green Bay. I’m not around family. I was really chalking it up to life catching up to me and I’m losing a lot of weight. So it was kind of embarrassing. I was getting skinnier. Here I am at free safety on a prominent NFL team and I’m thin as can be. So in hindsight, I look at that play and say, “Man, that was a huge moment for me” because it was another piece of overcoming. That game was in January and, next month, I go to the doctor after the season’s over to figure out what’s going on. He’s like, “Dude, we’ve got to remove your thyroid. This thing’s out of whack. You’re going to shrivel down to nothing.”
I had my thyroid taken out that first year while I was in Green Bay and had to start over essentially. The Packers flew me out to California to try to do some rehab and put on some weight. I don’t know how many guys experience this kind of stuff, but it was bad, man. I had to get my weight back up.
You never hear about that today. This is that ’93 season. You’re losing all of this weight and don’t know what the hell is going on? What’s going through your head?
Teague: It was definitely scary. Because I’m eating a lot at the house. My wife thinks I’m crazy, too. I’m like, “I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m hungry.” And she’s like, “Good Lord, are they feeding you over there? You come home and eat like this?” It wasn’t that anxious feeling but I guess if your heart is beating that fast — your metabolism is running that fast — I was just a very anxious person. So I was burning, burning, burning everything that was put into me. We actually took a cruise for my anniversary. That was my final test. We took a week-long cruise and I said, “You know what, we’re going on this cruise. I’ve got two goals: Eat as much as I can and drink as much as I can. And if I get off this boat and I’ve lost weight, then I’m going to the doctor.” Well, a week later, after we got off the boat, I lost five pounds.
They found it pretty quickly and easily. I’m still taking medicine for it. Because I have to regulate my metabolism.
And you’re dealing with this all while playing a violent game where you have to bash into other humans for a living. What did your weight get down to?
Teague: I was 165 pounds. Which is very thin for a starting safety. I’m sure the coaches were all going, “What’s wrong with this guy? What’s he doing in the weight room?” And that’s the business side of things you worry about, too. I wasn’t as strong as I could be. I maintained my speed as you saw but it was a struggle. And I’m thankful that after the season is when I started to get sore. I had to build to get back up to 195 pounds.
And you broke your toe? Is that true?
Teague: I had a foot injury that caused me to sit. I was thinking it was a high ankle sprain. I broke my toe once I got with the Cowboys. I had a severe high ankle sprain when I was in Dallas. That wasn’t part of the reason I got traded from Green Bay. I think the reason I was — and this is me speculating — was because I actually had a herniated disc going into my third year in my low back. So I’m sure that was pretty scary to the doctors when you start having back problems.
That’s what was going on when Green Bay traded you to Atlanta? (Note: Teague spent one month in Atlanta before being waived and signing with Dallas, then going to Miami and Dallas again.)
Teague: I guess why I’m extremely blessed to have lasted nine years in the league. I had a thyroid problem. I did have the foot injury. I had the back problem. I had other issues in Dallas when I actually did break my toe. I had a neck issue. So to get to nine years — and I probably could’ve had a couple more — I look at it like, “Man, that took a lot of perseverance to continue to go to work every day and get hit and deliver a hit and keep yourself together. I always asked a lot of questions to Reggie. And Robert Brooks was a good source for me on the offensive side of the ball because he was a fit guy. Like, “How do we handle this up here? It’s cold. What do you do when you go home? How do you keep your body together?”
You’re listing off all of these injuries. Neck and back and foot. And you’re a safety. Your job is to throw your body recklessly into harm’s way “X” amount of times every week. You can’t hide at your position.
Teague: And the hitting is different. It was expected to be different. The violence of the game. It’s still a violent game but the rules are different with the way you could tackle and could hit. You play the game because you love the game. You enjoy the crowd. You enjoy the fans. It’s not always about dollars and cents because there are other things you could do to make good money.
It’s the Green Bay atmosphere where you get to ride a kid’s bike down to practice. That was the highlight for me. I remember my guy’s name. We used to ride all the time. We stayed in touch for a long time. His mother would babysit my son. We built a relationship with that family, more than just taking that bike ride down. I’ve known his family for a very long time and we stayed in touch for 20 years after I left there. Those are the moments I take. One of my best friends still lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. We’ve been back to visit. We’ve seen the new stadium. It’s a great place to play. The tradition reminded me a lot of playing in Alabama. It felt like a college town. Football stadium. Bars. Cheese. Beer.
That ’95 team got so close — losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship — and then you just missed out on the ’96 Super Bowl.
Teague: I did, I did. I talk about that all the time. The Cowboys were our nemesis. We should’ve beat them. It was disheartening to get traded out of there and to not be able to finish off the deal I thought I was a big part of — as far as turning that process around with Green Bay. If we would’ve beat Carolina when I was in Dallas (in ’96), we would’ve matched up with the Packers in Lambeau. But we ended up losing. That would’ve been a fun game from the other side.
To go from Green Bay — a few stoplights, a bunch of farms — to Dallas had to be different, too. Those partying Cowboy teams were something else. Darren Woodson shared a few stories with us. What was it like to go from one way of living to the next?
Teague: Different all the way around. You go from the city of Irving having more than Green Bay. Not just the Dallas metroplex — 80,000 to 4 million. You can get lost and head down the wrong track pretty fast. But the whole organization was different. The Cowboys, the way Jerry Jones has things set up, there were a lot of suit and ties on the sidelines. Millionaires. Billionaires. It was a different show which could lead to that. Looking at the nightlife, the bar scene, it was different. Hanging out on the other side of the river in Ashwaubenon (Wisconsin), by 1:30, you’re out of there. Some of these places around here, it’s the after party after the after party. So, it could get distracting. Some of the guys were definitely living a different life than I had been accustomed to. Dallas, it was the fast life. That’s for sure.
And the other thing I’m sure you get asked about several times per week is lighting T.O. up on the star. That’ll live on a long time.
Teague: (Laughs) I think it was one of a kind at the time. Now, people are stepping on logos all the time. With T.O., I learned a lot about myself with that as well. It’s the reactionary deal of what do you do when you’re trying to protect your house, your turf or even your feelings? When are you going to stand up and do certain things? That game, we’re already getting our tails handed to us by the 49ers. We were having a good conversation, talking about each other’s mothers, sisters and brothers and all that kind of stuff. Saying nice things to each other during the game.
He cheap-shotted me down in the end zone. He goes out and runs out to the star the first time. Emmitt goes back out. So, I’m watching him the second time. Or, I’m watching him get ready to score actually. We’re down at the goal line and I knew they’d throw him the ball. So I’m standing there kind of like I was in the Alabama game. Loafing. Because I knew where the ball was going to go. Like, “OK, I’m going to see what this cat’s going to do here.” Really, to see what his celebration was going to be. Once he caught the ball, I saw him and it just clicked like, “Oh, gosh. Really?” There I went. Really, I just totally forgot that I was at the doggone stadium with 80,000 people there. And I went after him. You can tell, I was ready to fight. It was going to go down right there. Thankfully, Flozell Adams snatched me up. I don’t even know where he came from or how he got out there so fast.
When you’re sprinting after Owens, you totally forgot you were in a stadium? A game? It was just “I’m going to beat this guy’s ass?”
Teague: That’s exactly what it was. It was about to go down. Right then. If he wanted it, he could’ve got it. Go back and watch the film again. After I hit him, I looked at him — like, “OK, what’s up?” Then their big lineman — thank God I was taking Taekwondo — so I saw that guy coming out of my peripheral vision, so I didn’t get hit by that big lineman who tried to hit me. I ducked him and then went after him. That’s about the time I got snatched up and told I needed to get the hell out of the stadium.
Taking some karate helped with that maneuver, then?
Teague: It did! Yes sir. Swoop!
I forgot about the build-up. T.O. cheap-shotted you earlier in the game?
Teague: There’s the unwritten rule when the ball’s going to be spiked. Everyone kind of just gets in position, the quarterback spikes the ball, nobody really hits anybody. How many times have you seen that? Well, this guy. Here’s a spike play and we’re all just trying to get lined up. They spike the ball and he actually comes at me. Like, for real. We’re fighting in the end zone. You can find him saying, “Oh, he’s mad because of this play.” You can see it. Nobody’s moving except for me and him just standing there — he gets all up in my grill. And I’m like, “Ahh. OK. So we’re going to go here.” It’s the old Andre Rison-Deion Sanders matchup. So, “Alright, alright, if this is what we’re going to do, let’s do it.”
Speaking of neck injuries, you might’ve lost your head if you don’t duck when that lineman, Derrick Deese, is coming in so hot, too.
Teague: No one ever thinks about that. You all didn’t see how I moved out of this guy’s way?! He is chasing me for 50 yards.
Have you talked to T.O. since? Is the bad blood still there?
Teague: He won’t talk to me. I tried to reach out to him. When he came to the Cowboys, I tried. He came after I retired. He came the year afterwards. I already tried to reach out to his marketing people and him personally. Really, I thought we could make some money together. Do some marketing stuff. People still boost it up — back there for sure. It wasn’t like that for me. It was like the deal with Lamar Thomas. You’re playing the game and shit happens. You get over it. You move on. Well, he didn’t move on. I was on the sideline and I tried to shake his hand — at a game. He was in a Cowboys uniform and I was on the sideline. I thought, “Well, there’s no better time for me to at least come up and say, ‘Hey, man. Wish you the best. Blah, blah. Blah. Go Cowboys.’ Something. And he wouldn’t shake my hand. He looked right over me. He’s a giant, too. As big as I was, he was skying over me. I was like, “Wow.” He just looked right over me. I’m like, “OK.” So, that’s my last time.
So, you’re trying to be the bigger person here. Did he look you in the eyes at all? How does that go down? When you reach out your hand and he’s right there, how does he turn you down?
Teague: Almost like a staredown without really looking at you. I think he saw me coming and knew who I was and probably was saying, “How do I not have this happen?” So, he didn’t look me in the eyes. Like, “Nah, I don’t want to talk to you.”
He should at least look you in the eyes and say… something.
Teague: Yeah, give me a “Hey, man, get out of my face.” Just tell me to go away with a “No, man, we ain’t good.” Whatever. I could take that. But just to leave you hanging is… I don’t know. I didn’t know what to think about that really. I was like, “OK. Go play your game.” He’s a tremendous athlete. I have mad props for how he plays the game. He’s one of the best guys I’ve had to go against, and I don’t say that lightly. I played against Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. I played with Sterling Sharpe. With and against Michael Irvin. Against Randy Moss. I’ve seen really, really good wide receivers and I’ve seen how they act — because we all have chips on our shoulders — but most of the time we still know we’re NFL alum and we all had the same goals and same ambitions. At some point, you dap each other up and say, “Hey, man, no big deal.” Or, “I’m over it.” But that hasn’t happened yet.
You’re probably done reaching out to Owens at this point, right? It’s been two decades.
Teague: Yeah, I am done. It was kind of like Lamar Thomas. He wouldn’t talk to me at first. When I was at Green Bay, Lamar Thomas went to Tampa. So at that time, Tampa Bay was in our division so we played him twice a year. He was literally trying to hurt me during those games. He’s on offense. I’m on defense. You can cut and all that, so he was going at my legs. So I’d come back to the sideline and tell Reggie White and all them dudes, “Hey, man, I need someone to talk to Lamar because with what he’s doing, he’s trying to get me kicked out of the game. He’s going to make me swing on him.” So, this goes on for years. With Lamar, we end up playing with each other at the Dolphins. So, we’re on the same roster and he’s getting egged on and picked on. It was always, “Hey, watch out, Lamar. Teague’s behind you!” Crap like that. We had a cordial team deal, but he wasn’t really liking me.
It wasn’t until 20 years after the National Championship Game that we actually started talking to each other. I think he reached out on Twitter or something and was like, “Great play. Now, let’s make some money.” I’m like, “Dude, great.” We’re cool now. We talk. I have his number. We call each other. He just had his hip surgery so I know what’s going on in his life. It just took a while.
So that was him just being embarrassed then? He just struggled for a while to live with the embarrassment of that play?
Teague: That’s what happens when you talk too much shit. Be humble.
That had to feel good to shut them up. You guys basically ended that era of The U.
Teague: That was it. All downhill.
What did it mean to you guys then? To take them down?
Teague: It was another pride thing, when no one gives you a chance. I think one writer picked us to win the game. As much as you’re told not to watch the media, you do. You hear what they’re saying. You’re hearing it’s going to be a rout. It was a quiet storm brewing in Tuscaloosa. We all had a different agenda like, “I don’t think they know who we are.” So having a whole month to prepare — having the coaches we had — it was gametime then.
Coaching today, how have you found that purpose? When that cheering stops, it can be hard for a lot of guys to adapt. From afar, it seems like you found that reason.
Teague: I really thought I would end up coaching in the NFL right after I got out or doing some broadcasting stuff. I actually did do an internship with the Browns at first. After I got there, it was pretty evident in my heart that’s not where I needed to be. Not what I was called to do. Coaching grown men. At the time, that’s not what I felt. I felt like I had to give back and impact someone else. We talked about all the things I’ve gone through. I just felt like I had to be on a different level to have a different impact through coaching. So that’s how I got into high school coaching, to have an impact on that age group.
So you want to affect lives?
Teague: Hearing that roar of the fans coming out, there is some “I miss this.” But you have to be happy with what you do and really try to find a purpose if you can. And I knew what that was. I have been offered twice to coach in the NFL and did not go. So you go, “Well, do you ever want to do it?” And you go, “Yeah, absolutely. At the time, it just wasn’t the right time for my family, for my kids, whatever it was. I couldn’t do it.”
Are you seeing the impact you’re making on kids’ lives?
Teague: Absolutely. I have zero regrets about being on this level as long as I have. Because it has allowed me to do things with my family that I might not have been able to do. It’s given me job stability, being able to stay put and not necessarily have my job predicated by someone else. So, it’s been enjoyable. We’ll see how this continues to go. I’m 50. I’m still young. I’ve got time to do some things. I get calls from college and pro teams to do some stuff so we’ll see.