Vol. LXI, No. 22
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)GOING TO KANSAS CITY: Princeton University quarterback Jeff Terrell moves out of the pocket in action last season. Terrell recently signed a rookie free agent contract to play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Terrell, who threw for 4,166 yards in his career and was named the 2006 Ivy Player of the Year after Princeton tied Yale for the league title, recently participated in mini-camp with the Chiefs.
Jeff Terrell didn't look like a potential starting Ivy League quarterback, let alone an NFL prospect, based on how he performed in his first scrimmage with the Princeton University football team.
Playing against Yale before the 2003 season, the lefty from the Cleveland area threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
In its next series, Princeton called the same passing play and Terrell repeated his freshman mistake as the Bulldogs made another pick which they turned into six points.
Undeterred, Terrell persevered and worked himself up the depth chart over the next two years. In the preseason before his junior season, Terrell went from being the No. 3 quarterback to the opening day starter against Lafayette.
Terrell threw for 197 yards that day as Princeton edged Lafayette and he never looked back. He passed for 1,721 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2005, leading Princeton to a 7-3 season.
Last fall, Terrell produced one of the best seasons in Princeton history, passing for 2,445 yards and 17 touchdowns as the Tigers went 9-1 for the season and tied Yale for the Ivy League title. After the season, Terrell won the Bushnell Cup, given to the Ivy League Player of the year.
Culminating his improbable rise from that miserable scrimmage, Terrell recently signed a rookie free agent contract to play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL.
In Terrell's view, his rocky road to stardom should prove invaluable as he tries to stick in the highly competitive world of the NFL. "It helps me to remember where I came from," said the 6'3, 220-pound Terrell, whose career total of 4,166 passing yards ranks him fourth all-time in the program's history.
"I was so close to not being a starter and now I'm competing to play in the NFL. I was a benchwarmer and I had to earn everything, nothing was handed to me. I remember the work that was necessary to become a starter."
As a late bloomer, Terrell didn't view himself as an NFL prospect until late in his senior season. "Early in the fall, I didn't get the sense that that was a possibility," said Terrell. "After the Penn and Yale games, people asked me if I would want to give it a shot. It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. I was too focused on the season to think about it much."
Once the season ended, Terrell focused on putting in the work necessary to get a shot at his dream. He worked on improving his strength and speed with Princeton strength coach Jason Gallucci, who has helped other Tiger players to prepare for the NFL. Terrell participated in Princeton's annual "pro day" and did passing workouts for several NFL teams. Receiving lukewarm feedback from NFL coaches, Terrell wasn't sure whether all the work had been for naught.
But after not getting picked in the two-day NFL draft in late April, things heated up considerably. "After the draft, a handful of teams called me wanting me to come in for try-outs," recalled Terrell. "The Chiefs were the only one who wanted me to sign so it wasn't a hard decision. We agreed to terms on Sunday night and I signed a faxed contract on Monday."
Earlier this month, Terrell was in Kansas City for the team's first mini-camp since the draft. "It was a little intimidating," said Terrell, who will spend most of the next six weeks in Kansas City, coming back to Princeton for his graduation in early June.
"You just have to get over the hype. Obviously the players are bigger and faster and it is more intense. But once I stepped on the field, I reminded myself it's the same game and I've been playing a long time."
Terrell gave himself mixed reviews in his first taste of pro football. "You can always do better," said Terrell. "I think I showed potential, I made all the throws."
In Terrell's view, his Princeton experience will help him with the mental side of the pro game. "I've gone through learning the offense while taking care of my other school commitments," said Terrell, who made copious notes to himself on the Kansas City offense on the plane ride back from mini-camp. "You learn to pick up things quickly at Princeton and use time management."
Princeton head coach Roger Hughes believes that Terrell made the most of his time during his Tiger career. "He was very hard on himself," said Hughes, who coaches the team's quarterbacks.
"He worked very hard. He's dedicated and I think his strong faith helped him. He started his junior year third on the depth chart; what he has done is a real credit to him. It's very gratifying to me since I coach that position."
Hughes has previous experience grooming quarterbacks for the NFL, helping Dartmouth star Jay Fiedler develop into a pro prospect during his tenure as an offensive coordinator for the Big Green.
In Hughes' view, Terrell's abilities are comparable to Fiedler, who spent 11 years in the NFL and played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets. "I think they are similar in terms of toughness," asserted Hughes. "Jeff is a little taller, Jay may be put together a little better. Jay probably has a stronger arm but Jeff has the knack for knowing when to get rid of the ball and where to throw it."
The Princeton coach believes Terrell has the potential to make it with the Chiefs. "I think it's a good situation for him; he'll get a shot at being the No. 3 quarterback," said Hughes.
"He has to learn what they are doing. He can't be too hard on himself, they signed him for a reason. He's going to make mistakes. If he is given a chance, I think he will improve and grow."
Terrell, for his part, believes he is up to the challenge. "I think it's going to come down to consistency," said Terrell, who will spend most of his summer in Kansas City preparing for training camp which starts July 27. "I can make all the throws but I have to make then consistently. The teams want to be able to trust a young quarterback."
Based on the tenacity Terrell displayed as he fought his way to stardom at Princeton, the Chiefs can trust that they will get a full effort from their young quarterback.
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