As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Ohio State running back Master Teague rushed for 789 yards and four touchdowns. It was one of the best performances by a Buckeye freshman rusher in school history.
Teague’s role on last year’s team was very distinct, however. He was the designated clock burner in the second half of blowouts. He rushed for 684 yards in the second half of games last year, which was second in the conference to Wisconsin All-American Jonathan Taylor’s 793 yards. Teague’s 359 yards rushing in the fourth quarter led the Big Ten and was good for 10th nationally.
That was last year’s role, however, and Teague had expectations of expanding his duties this year thanks to the departure of three-year starter JK Dobbins.
The winter went great for Teague, but then came an Achilles injury early in spring camp. Teague was shut down immediately.
“I was definitely excited. Highly anticipating it. Put in a lot of work, just like everybody here,” Teague said. “But when it happened, I knew something was wrong and something was up. I just wasn't quite sure. I couldn't put a name to it, but I knew it wasn't good. I couldn't really put weight on my foot or walk regularly, so I knew something was wrong. I was just in shock at the time.”
Soon after Teague was shut down, the entire world shut down with the coronavirus pandemic. Players were sent home. Campus buildings were off limits. This became a huge concern for the coaches, especially as it related to the players who were currently rehabbing from injury. While OSU was able to give them instructions, they weren’t able to be there with them to help get it done. This left players like Master Teague on their own to rehab from major injuries.
And it was the way Teague approached his rehab that truly impressed Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford.
“Well, just his attitude about it. He's so into his faith and never wavered in his belief system that he'd be fine and be back and just the way he attacked it. When everybody else decided to go home, away from Columbus, he on the other hand decided to stay here. Stayed put. Put himself in his one-bedroom apartment and just went to work and never complained,” Alford said.
“Just whatever he could do, plus some, was his attitude. It doesn't shock me though. Master is the type of young guy that will completely immerse himself into whatever he's doing. And so we expected nothing different with this rehab and he did that and came back in good order.”
Teague relies on his faith and he understood that he wouldn’t be put through more than he could handle. In the moment, however, that can sometimes be tough to remember. Even though he was on his own, he wasn’t truly alone. He was always in contact with family and with OSU. And being quarantined kind of brings its own type of discipline with it, so he worked and he rehabbed and he stayed on track. Eventually, he was able to rehab at the Jameson Crane rehab center near the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. After a period of time, the WHAC itself opened up and he was able to get back to work with OSU’s football trainers.
It wasn’t an ideal situation, but Teague viewed it as an opportunity for growth and personal improvement. Through it all, he saw the good that this situation could bring.
“I think it definitely was a blessing in disguise. Just continuing to build and in life you're always going to have some obstacles and something to overcome. So for me, that was just one of the obstacles that I had at that time,” he said.
“It was just another chance for me just to grow as a person, as a man, as a player and continue to build disciplines in my life to help me with certain things on down the road. So I felt like the Lord was with me throughout the time and that I was going to be able to play this season, and I'm grateful that we're having one. A little delayed, of course, but nonetheless I feel good and blessed to have gone through it.”