Sept. 11, 2000
by Ken Kleppel
Puzzles come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Seeming jumbled and confused at first glance, once the pieces start to assemble the picture systematically takes form.
The most difficult part about solving a puzzle, though, is usually finding that missing final piece. For the past three football seasons senior offensive tackle John Teasdale has found himself part of a unique Notre Dame puzzle on the offensive line.
With worn-out cleats supporting over 300 pounds on his massive 6-5 frame, his biggest contribution to that riddle surprisingly is not his size.
"He has great agility and great lateral movement," says sophomore guard Sean Milligan.
"His greatest assets are his legs, which helps a lot since he is a tackle. He had a higher vertical leap than anyone else on the line last year."
"He really is mobile for his size and is able to use his speed well," says senior defensive end Grant Irons.
Following a freshman season in which he did not see game action, Teasdale appeared in the first 10 contests of the 1998 campaign, while debuting at the tackle position in the season-opening rout of defending national champion Michigan. He recorded 55 special-team appearances, including four on New Year's Day against Georgia Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl.
"I think the speed at which the game is played was my biggest transition," says Teasdale, who was actually recruited as a tight end and played a week on the defensive line before moving to tackle.
"The line adjustments and calls need to become second nature. There is so much detail that goes into it. It matters how precise you are, such as in footwork."
Entering the 1999 season with a new tackle coach in Steve Addazio, a new offensive coordinator in Kevin Rogers and following the graduation of four offensive line starters representing a combined 100 career starts, Teasdale emerged as a staple on an offensive line loaded with promise but lacking experience.
Teasdale started the first 10 games of his junior season at tackle, with nine of those starts coming on the right side. He notched his first collegiate start in the Eddie Robinson Classic win over Kansas by helping a potent Irish offense run for over seven yards a carry. Logging nearly 240 minutes of playing time, more than any other returning tackle to the 2000 team, he also appeared 46 times on special teams.
A dismal final note to an otherwise solid junior season occurred when Teasdale suffered a season-ending arch injury in the first half of the Pittsburgh contest.
"My initial reaction to the injury was one of great disappointment because I knew that I'd be out for the Boston College game, which is always a big game and our last one at home, as well as the Stanford game. I really wanted to finish those games because I knew we were battling for a bowl game," says Teasdale.
Thanks to an assertive effort in the weight room and on the practice field, Teasdale was able to fully recover from the foot injury in time for the 2000 campaign.
"For this season I just rehabbed it. There was a question mark in winter conditioning, but luckily everything held up well."
According to Milligan, a little more than just luck was involved.
"He doesn't take anything for granted any more," say Milligan of Teasdale, who hosted Teasdale during his official high school visit to the University.
"It really hurt his pride when it happened. He went back in the weight room right away in the spring. He did not delay. He tried to make everything positive. He is never negative about anything. He is upbeat, even after two a days. If you're struggling, he'll pick you up and let you know what's up. He'll help you out when you're down."
"I try to do my part to get freshmen accustomed to college life with all that is going on around them," says Teasdale, who had the challenge to break four freshman linemen into the Notre Dame system last fall.
"In high school you're spoon-fed, but in college you have to make decisions. Knowing your plays is always a high concern for rookies so we try to help them with that. Mike Rosenthal was my example as a freshman. He was very much like a mentor to me and I would like to be the same type of guy to others."
Models, such as Rosenthal, proved valuable to Teasdale in the recruiting process.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., and a first-team all-state choice as an offensive lineman, tight end and defensive end at Rockhurst High School, Teasdale was heavily recruited by several top schools but ultimately chose Notre Dame because of the character behind its athletes.
"The people I met made the difference," Teasdale says.
"Everybody seemed so sincere. I went to other schools, but the players here had real interests and goals. Notre Dame fulfills you as a person. That is what I saw in those guys."
Satisfying his own personal interests as a student-athlete, Teasdale made his mark on a legendary Notre Dame tradition this past spring leading Keyplay.Com to a championship in the 2000 edition of the annual Bookstore Basketball Tournament that features over 600 teams in the month-long competition.
Described by an opponent as a commanding physical player with a soft touch and a feel for the game, Teasdale earned a spot on the "All-Davie Team" recognizing the football squad's top hoopsters.
"The Bookstore Tournament is always a lot of fun," says Teasdale.
"I like all the hype that goes around it. The tournament is all that everybody talks about for a week or two. I thought we had a great time and tried not to take it too seriously."
Building on 10 starts and over 20 career appearances, the 2000 season appears to be a promising one for Teasdale.
"Obviously experience is helpful in a lot of ways. Yet one thing Coach Addazio has stressed is to play hard every play," says Teasdale.
"We talk a lot about the intangibles. If we take care of those, then winning and having a good time will follow. We must have a great work ethic off the field too, like constantly studying the playbook and knowing our assignments. We must be mentally tough and mentally accurate in our assignment, and physically at our best."
Fifth-year senior guard Mike Gandy offers a unique perspective on the talented tackle.
"I think he has grown up a lot more. After a year of experience he has made some great strides. He is taking it a lot more seriously and he now understands his role on the team."
"For me, I want to be the starting tackle and play every day. I want to develop myself as a leader both on and off the field. I want to be that example everyone looks at," says Teasdale.
It appears Teasdale just may be that final piece everybody was looking for. If the puzzle is now solved, then the picture certainly looks good.