At a time of the year when many college football players are looking ahead to the NFL draft, Navy’s Alexander Teich is bracing for survival under water with his hands and feet bound. That’s otherwise known as drown-proofing, and it’s among the many extreme requirements confronting the senior fullback if he is to become a Navy SEAL.
There’s also surf torture, in which potential SEALS lie next to one another with arms locked while frigid water splashes over them. Once soaked, they are asked to run a mile and a half in their wet clothes and boots before immersing themselves back in the surf. Then comes Hell Week, a torture test over 51 / 2 days with essentially no sleep.
None of this is particularly jarring to Teich. The co-captain has spoken in detail to former Midshipmen who withstood the excruciating training, so Teich’s mental preparation for membership into the elite special forces unit already has commenced on some level.
“When you first get here at the academy, you come here to play football, and everybody has their dream of playing in the NFL or whatever it may be,” Teich said. “But as you mature in this academy and as you grow over four years, you start to realize this is such a bigger thing than any game that you’ll ever play in. What you represent, what you’re going to do in life is far more important than playing in the NFL.”
Teich last week officially received his service assignment for special warfare, allowing him to embark on SEAL training after graduation in late May. For the immediate future, though, Teich is taking aim at Army in what certainly will be the most meaningful football game of his career.
That’s because not only is Navy facing its most bitter rival, but in an unusual circumstance for this past decade, it’s also the final game of the Midshipmen’s season. Normally at this part of the college football calendar, Navy is preparing for Army with a bowl game in mind, but its run of eight consecutive years with a postseason berth officially ended on Nov. 19 with a 27-24 loss to San Jose State. The defeat ensured the first losing season since 2002 for the Midshipmen (4-7), who were all but done in by six consecutive losses that included four by a combined eight points.
Teich was somewhat ignominiously involved in the first of those on Oct. 1 against Air Force. Down 18 points at the half, Navy came storming back to force overtime. Midshipmen senior quarterback Kriss Proctorscored first but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after his one-yard touchdown run, and place kicker Jon Teague was forced to try a 35-yard extra point that was blocked.
Air Force scored the tying touchdown, and the point after produced a 35-34 victory in Annapolis. Caught up in the emotion of the devastating loss, Teich committed an undisclosed violation of team rules, prompting Coach Ken Niumatalolo to keep him out of the following week’s game.
“I know it hurt [Teich] more than anybody,” said senior defensive end and co-captain Jabaree Tuani, who was in the same company with Teich when they were freshmen and sophomores. “But it definitely hurt me and hurt the team because obviously as him being a leader, like coach said, you expect more out of him because you really don’t realize how much the younger guys do look up to you. I know Alex has grown from that situation.”
If anything, Teich is more respected in the locker room for admitting his error in judgment rather than sulking over his punishment. He was with the team for its game against Southern Miss on Oct. 8 even though he was not in uniform, offering guidance to backup fullback Delvin Diggs, who ran for 93 yards on 17 carries in the 63-35 loss.
Since coming back from the one-game suspension, Teich has rushed for 382 yards and two touchdowns. He needs 74 yards against the Black Knights to set a personal single-season rushing mark. Last year he ran for 863 yards, including a single-game best 210 in a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame, and averaged nearly six yards per carry.
“So very proud of Alex. Very happy that the SEAL community has invited him to have an opportunity to be a member if things work out,” Niumatalolo said. “I believe things you learn on the football field obviously I think can help in the military service, the discipline will help him being a SEAL, a Marine, Navy, any of that stuff.”