COUNCIL BLUFFS — Akise Teague’s chance came sooner than expected.
Slated to split time at running back in the season opener at Trinity Valley, the sophomore was forced into action when freshman Trey’Vonne Barre injured an ankle on the first play.
Teague ran for 88 yards and scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of Iowa Western’s 24-17 win. And the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder from Youngstown, Ohio, hasn’t slowed up since.
Entering this week’s home game with Ellsworth, Teague is 56 yards shy of becoming the second 1,000-yard rusher for IWCC. His 134.9 yards-per-game average is fourth in the NJCAA.
“He’s one of the more elusive backs that I’ve seen, making one or two guys miss,” Reiver coach Scott Strohmeier said. “There’s been numerous plays this year where they’ve blitzed him clean and he made them miss. He brings a different element.”
Teague was picked by the Iowa Western coaches as the offensive most valuable player four times in the six games since the opener. He missed one game due to a hamstring injury.
Two weeks ago, Teague broke the Reivers’ single-game rushing record with 260 yards at Arkansas Baptist. He followed that with a three-TD performance at Iowa Central.
“It feels great because I feel like my work has somewhat paid off,” he said. “I was ecstatic. I was too happy. I hadn’t put up 260 since high school.”
In high school, Teague was seemingly all-world. But that seems like forever ago to him.
Arrested during his freshman year at Cincinnati after items were taken from unlocked dorm rooms on campus, he was dismissed from the team and kicked out of school.
“I felt everything that I worked for got flushed down the toilet,” he said.
As a senior at Youngstown’s Ursuline High School, Teague was the best player in Ohio. He amassed more than 2,300 yards rushing and 4,000 all-purpose yards with 48 touchdowns.
Teague ran for 249 yards and three TDs and caught a 73-yard scoring pass as Ursuline (15-0) won its third straight Division V state championship by throttling Coldwater 55-21.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was watching that day. Penn State also had an interest in Teague. Wisconsin wanted to sign him as a greyshirt. Nebraska offered a scholarship late.
Crowned Mr. Football in Ohio, he was named the player of the game in the Big 33 Football Classic, which pits the best senior players in Ohio against those from Pennsylvania.
“I’ve seen the highlight film of him in that game,” Strohmeier said. “It’s pretty special.”
He gained 168 total yards and scored three TDs that day before heading on to Cincinnati, where he played two games as a true freshman. A pulled hamstring ended his season early, however. And Teague said having no football led him to stray down a wrong path.
“I lost focus on what I was supposed to be doing,” he said. “Period.”
Teague was charged with six counts of burglary in February 2012. Four of them were dropped in late August of last year. He’s on probation after being convicted on two.
“What happened at Cincinnati was not me,” he said. “Truthfully, that’s not me.”
Teague has been trying to make amends since. And he’s also gotten back into football.
An out-of-nowhere call from current Reiver Antwan Gilbert, who is also from Ohio, led Teague to check into Iowa Western. And Strohmeier decided to give Teague a second chance.
“I didn’t really have any concerns,” the coach said. “He made a mistake. Obviously, some kids learn from them, some kids don’t. ... After talking to him, I had a good feeling.
“It’s the only time he was in trouble. Kids make mistakes. Some are more severe than others, for sure. He had to do a lot of work, and he did it in the summer. I told him he could come in the summer and take care of business. That’s your chance.”
But there were still more obstacles.
Teague thought he had finished the required academic hours this summer to be eligible this fall, only to find out his credits from Cincinnati weren’t from a full semester. Teague crammed in two more courses in the week leading up to the opener, taking one final by computer from the team’s hotel in Texas on the eve of the football season.
He also was forced to move off campus at the beginning of the fall due to a school policy that states those convicted of any type of property theft are ineligible to live in the school’s housing.
“The kid’s been through more than any kid I’ve known in his time from the situation that happened in Cincinnati to his time here,” Strohmeier said. “It’s one of those things where you’re pulling for a kid that made a mistake and is in a big hole, but can get out of it.”
Iowa Western running backs coach Karson Pike said not only did Teague come into the fall in great playing shape, he also has shared the football-related things he learned at Cincinnati.
“He’s been a good leader to our younger guys and first-year players,” Pike said. “Really, no troubles. He’s been great.”
Teague has already received an NCAA Division I scholarship offer from Akron.
Other offers may follow as Teague nears the single-season Reiver records for rushing yards (1,150) and rushing TDs (13) set by Aaron Wimberly last year. The sophomore enters Saturday’s game with 944 yards and 10 scores. And he has three regular-season games left.
Teague said he’s thankful for the opportunity.
“I feel like God’s given me a second chance,” he said. “I’m going to go ahead and take care of everything I need to take care of for the second chance to pan out like it’s supposed to.”