Cary News: Sports

July 26, 2014

Minnesota AD Norwood Teague learned at Athens Drive

University of Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague knew he wanted a career in athletics back in 1984 when he was starting quarterback at Athens Drive High. Others might dream of cashing pay checks as professional players, but Teague was more realistic about his chances.

University of Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague said he uses skills every day that he learned when he played athletics at Raleigh’s Athens Drive High.

Teague was the starting quarterback for the Jaguars in the fall of 1984 and he also played basketball and baseball. Football was his favorite sport, but it wasn’t easy for him to get on the field.

He wanted to play quarterback, but he was competing with Ty Suggs for the starting job. Teague said the competition taught him to work hard.

“When I think back on it, that was one of the biggest things I learned,” said Teague, who was in town last weekend for his 30th high school reunion

“I don’t think I ever worked as hard as I did the summer before my senior year. I went to N.C. State – back behind Reynolds Coliseum where the softball field is now – and threw every day. I learned how to set a goal and work toward it.”

Teague won the starting job, but it was a difficult season. The Jaguars were competitive in every game, but finished 1-9. He had to learn how to handle tough times.

“The turning point in our season may have come against Sanderson,” he said. “We had played well and we had the lead into the closing seconds when Byron McMillan threw a 60-yard pass that barely got over two defenders’ finger tips for a touchdown. I can still picture it.

“I lived fairly close to Sanderson and I knew all of those guys. I went to Martin Junior High and half our team went to Sanderson and other other half went to Athens. It was such a big game for us and it slipped away. It was devastating.”

McMillan remembers the play, too. “I took one step downfield, came back and caught a lateral and threw deep,” he said. “I knew Norwood some through American Legion baseball and he was a good guy. It was a great win for us and a tough loss for them.”

Teague said he learned about the necessity of team that year.

“I read once that (former Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Troy Aikman’s high school team went 2-8 his senior year,” Teague said. “That is amazing to me. But it illustrates the need to have a good team around you.”

Rich Nixon, who was in his first season as head coach of the Jaguars, said Teague was the type of kid who seemed capable of doing almost anything in life.

“He was extremely coachable,” Nixon said. “He’d listen and absorb. He also worked extremely hard trying to get better. One thing I remember is that in the tough times, he wouldn’t have a bad atttitude. He’d do whatever it took for him to get better.”

Teague said one of the best things to happen to him was the ability to attend integrated schools. He began school at York Elementary in 1972.

“Going to integrated schools was radically life changing,” he said. “I grew up going to class and playing sports with people of different races. That wasn’t the case for people just a little older than me.

“When I got to Athens, it was about 50-50 with whites and blacks. It was wonderful. I knew that we are all people with the same hopes and dreams. It was a great foundation.”

He has a hard time imagining segregated schools and sports.

“I was talking to Phil Ford once and mentioned that Bobby Stokes was the third black basketball player at the University of Virginia. That seemed unimaginable to me,” Teague said. “Then Phil told me that he was the fifth black player at UNC. I was so lucky to come along at a different time.”

Teague’s advice to high school athletes is to play as many sports as they possibly can and concentrate on academics.

“I might have been a little bit better if I had concentrated on one sport, but I wouldn’t have had as much fun or learned as much,” he said. “Playing as many sports as I could was absolutely the best thing for me. And you can’t emphasize the academics too much.

“I look at our football team at Minnesota and maybe three will play in the NFL for a very few years. Some of our basketball players may play in Europe. But their education will be with them forever.”

Teague said even in his Athens Drive days he knew he wanted to be in athletic administration.

“I wanted to be a teacher and coach or something involved in athletics,” Teague said. “Todd Turner got me turned on to athletic administration.”

Turner, who is Teague’s cousin, was athletic director at the University of Virginia while Teague was in high school. Turner enlisted Teague to help keep statistics when the Cavaliers were playing at N.C. State, North Carolina or Duke.

“Even then I thought Norwood would be a very good athletic administrator,” Turner said. “You could see it in his future. He worked hard and had such a passion.”

Teague briefly considered trying to play Division III football, but decided to follow family tradition by going to the University of North Carolina. He became an intern in the sports information office in Chapel Hill, later coached and taught in high school for three years before entering administration.

He moved around as an assistant athletic director before making a five-year stop at UNC as an assistant athletics director. He said former Tar Heels AD Dick Baddour was a great mentor. Teague said he was exposed to the revenue side of athletics at UNC, something he uses every day.

The UNC program is being investigated by the NCAA for possible academic violations, but Teague said he never had an inkling of impropriety while he was there.

“It was emphasized that we did things the right way,” he said. “In the end, it may turn out that much of the situation is overblown.”

He left North Carolina to become the athletic director job at Virginia Commonwealth and went on to the Big Ten’s Minnesota.

Turner considers Teague, 49, to be among the top young college athletic directors in the country.

“He is a national leader in collegiate athletics, especially among the younger athletic directors. He has done it with his intelligence, work ethic and passion,” Turner said.

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