By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — Kent Turner, John Paul II High School’s athletic director and dean of administrative services, didn’t spare any details when he met with former Dallas Cowboys safety George Teague at a Dairy Queen three months ago to discuss the Cardinals’ head football coaching position.
Turner told Teague that the Cardinals’ football program needed leadership that grasped the culture of tradition-building and an appreciation of athletics as a community unifier.
“The football program has struggled, winning only one of its last 51 games,” Turner said. “We’re looking to bring excitement back and make football a fun game that brings a lot of involvement from students, not just the players but also the band, cheerleaders, drill team and the whole community.”
A winning tradition
When Teague, 45, began as JPII’s head football coach on Jan. 3, he brought a strong portfolio as a football player on all levels and coaching experience, most recently at the June Shelton School, which made the TAPPS Division III playoffs under Teague.
He also brought a deep awareness of how strong traditions galvanize athletes, fans and communities, having played for some of the most storied franchises and programs in U.S. sports.
His nine NFL seasons included five with the Cowboys and three with the Green Bay Packers, who selected him in the 1993 NFL Draft’s first round. Teague—a member of the University of Alabama’s 1992 national championship team during his college career–also played one season for the Miami Dolphins.
“Coming to John Paul II High School will be about changing the culture of the football program,” Teague said as he toured the football offices that soon will house eight assistant coaches—up from five in 2016. “I can see the athleticism and talent in this building. We’ll be aggressive on defense and balanced on offense. I’m a big believer in running the football and throwing it when you have to.”
Teague, whose father was in the Air Force, spent part of his childhood in Germany, where he played soccer as his first major sport.
Back in the U.S., he opted for football at the urging of his mother, Annie.
“She was the one who said, ‘Go find your spot on the football team,’ ” Teague said with a smile. “I always tell kids to listen to their moms.”
Teague, the youngest of nine children, said that sports abounded in his family life.
“Having six older brothers picking on you and throwing the ball at you made me figure, in hindsight, that probably was why I ended up on defense,” he said. “At Alabama, Coach Gene Stallings was very influential on me. I can still hear him telling me that if I wanted to play in the pros, especially as a defensive back, this is what you’ve got to do. He would interrupt practice to teach and point out things.”
Heart of a champion
Teague remains close friends with former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2015.
“Teague is the smartest player I’ve ever played with—It’s not even close,” said Woodson, a four-time first-team All-Pro who played in three Super Bowls. “His memory was unbelievable. He would see something one time and tell us exactly what we learned in the classroom. I had to see it maybe three or four times. He will not allow you to miss the smallest or slightest thing. He wouldn’t let me slide on anything. That’s where you start to change the culture.”
Woodson said that Teague is an excellent coach for young people.
“His heart has been on the high school level and teaching kids how to play the game he loves,” Woodson said. “I’ve had probably three pro coaches ask me if I could help sway Teague to come out to the NFL and coach.”
Teague said that when people ask him about his NFL career, he always gets quizzed about the day Terrell Owens, then with the 49ers, showboated after he scored a touchdown in the Cowboys’ home in the 2000 season. Owens stood in the middle of the Cowboys’ signature star at mid-field.
When Emmitt Smith scored a touchdown soon after, he spiked the ball on the star to show whose star it was.
When Owens scored another touchdown, he ran toward the star to repeat his show of disrespect. But Teague had other plans for Owens.
“We both were headed toward the star,” Teague said. “This is our house. I gave him a big smack at full speed. People remember that—hitting Owens out of the star.”
Protecting the star and defending tradition outweighed all other concerns at the time, Teague said. “It’s been a positive,” he said.
Among the photos on Teague’s office wall, one depicts a particularly special day, he said, when he had the honor of carrying the U.S. flag onto the field before the Cowboys first game after the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001.
“Having come from a military family, it was a super-emotional day,” he said.
Turner said that Teague’s humility, soft-spoken manner and profound Christian faith will nurture students and bring out their best.
“He’s going to help mold young men into productive members of society,” Turner said. “He fits the mission and the vision of John Paul II High School.”