Ursuline’s Teague named Ohio’s Mr. Football

Published 1:51 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — When Youngstown Ursuline comes onto the field before the start of Saturday’s Division V championship game at Canton’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, odds are few fans will be able to pick out the best high school football player in the state.

At just 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds, Akise Teague isn’t a physical specimen. But those numbers are just the product of a tape measure and a scale. Without question, he’ll be the biggest player on the field.

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That’s why the senior running back is the winner of the 24th annual Associated Press Ohio Mr. Football award.

“I’m a strong-hearted player that plays taller than what I really am,” said the outgoing Teague, who will lead unbeaten and top-ranked Ursuline’s attempt for a third consecutive state championship. This will be his fourth consecutive state title game.

Other numbers are far more revealing when it comes to Teague.

He carried 164 times for 1,756 yards and 26 touchdowns during the regular season — now he’s up to a mind-boggling 43 touchdowns. During the first 10 games, he caught 25 passes for 545 yards (21.8 ypc) and five TDs, returned 10 kicks for 328 yards and another score, and brought back 13 punts for 283 yards (21.8 ypr). When he wasn’t piling up 3,132 all-purpose yards on offense, he was intercepting five passes on defense.

Amazingly, he is averaging almost a point every time he touches the ball this season.

“He’s the most explosive player I’ve ever coached,” said Ursuline’s Dan Reardon. “That’s pretty notable because I’ve been around some pretty good players — Mario Manningham, Maurice Clarett, Boom Herron — from when I previously was on Warren Harding’s staff.”

Manningham, formerly of Michigan, now stars for the New York Giants. Clarett won the Ohio Mr. Football award in 2001 and, despite off-the-field notoriety, led Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years as a freshman. Dan “Boom” Herron is currently Ohio State’s tailback and an All-Big Ten performer.

The thing about Teague is he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s not 6-2 and 230. He’s unafraid running between the tackles, and just as adept at skirting an end to outrun defenders to the post. Blessed with great hands — he was first-team AP All-Ohio a year ago as a receiver — he can also snag passes out of the backfield. And he seldom makes bad decisions on kick returns.

So what does he think he excels at?

“I’m best at blocking for other players,” he said. “For sure. Anything for my team. It doesn’t matter, as long as we get yardage.”

Teague is a good-natured kid who loves hanging around with his friends. He has put off making a decision on where he’ll go to college until after the Fighting Irish meet Coldwater on Saturday.

“I’ve narrowed it down some, but I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not ready to make a decision yet. I’ve narrowed it down to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and a couple of MACs and Ohio State’s going to be at the state championship game. Hopefully they give me a good look. And Penn State will also be there.”

Reardon will hate to see him go, and not just because of what he does on a field.

“He’s a great kid. A kid who’s worked very hard in all aspects of his life,” he said. “He’s very, very personable; he’s great around kids. He’s one of those guys that the ballboys and the waterboys, he takes them under his wing. They all kind of gravitate to him. He has one of those personalities that all he does is have a smile on his face. He’s just a fun kid to be around.”

So how would Teague describe himself?

“Tenacious,” he said. “That would be the word — tenacious.”

Reardon vividly remembers when Teague showed up for his first football practice.

“He had the ’it’ factor,” he said.

Akise says he doesn’t know the origin of his name but thinks that since his 8-year-old sister is named Auze and his 10-year old sister is Montazia, his parents were just seeking out something original. He’s unaware of anyone else with the name Akise.

No question he’s unique, that’s for sure.

Teague becomes just the second Youngstown-area player (joining Clarett) to win the Ohio Mr. Football award, which is selected by a media panel from across the state. He is the third running back in a row to win the honor. He will receive a plaque in the shape of Ohio.

Others considered for the award include: Springfield linebacker Trey DePriest, Mentor Lake Catholic running back Richie Sanders, Toledo St. John’s wide receiver Cheatham Norrils, Columbus Hartley running back Noah Key, Steubenville linebacker Shaq Petteway, Westerville South running back Jayshon Jackson and Huber Heights Wayne quarterback Braxton Miller.