Tejeda doesn’t have a typical story
Most typical college football recruits send college coaches video tapes, talk to college scouts and meet with college coaches before deciding where to play football at the next level.
Sophomore Trojan linebacker Chris Tejeda doesn’t have a typical recruiting story.
Tejeda, from Dallas, Texas, is one of six players on the Trojans from the Lone Star State. Tejeda has played football since he was seven, and played high school football at Leander High School in Austin, Texas. But it isn’t where he is from that makes his story interesting, it is how he got here that makes it out of the ordinary.
“My mom plays football for a women’s league in Austin (Texas),” Tejeda said.
Hold it, a women’s football league in Texas?
Chris’s mom, Sekethia, plays professional football for the Austin Outlaws of the National Women’s Football Association. Sekethia, also known as Ski, plays linebacker and quarterback. Amazingly enough, Chris came to NIACC because of one of Sekethia’s football teammates.
“One of her friends on her team knew one of the coaches up here,” Tejeda said. “She knew Coach Honnald, and he owed her a favor, and I was having trouble getting recruited out of high school for football. So I sent a recruiting tape up here, and that’s how it happened.”
Denny Honnald was an assistant coach for two years at NIACC. He coached as a defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, and hasn’t been on the coaching staff since 2004. But head coach Scott Strohmeier said he believes Tejeda was a great addition to the NIACC football program.
“Chris comes from a state where football is important,” Strohmeier said. “Any time you can bring someone with that type of background, he is going to make a football team better. He understands the game, he works hard, he goes to his classes, he does things right on the field, he gets along with the guys and he’s always on time. He’s a role model for younger guys to follow. He’s been great for us the past two years.”
Coming from Texas, it took no time for Tejeda to distinguish the differences in football between the two states.
“The size, competitiveness, attitude and the atmosphere are different,” Tejeda said. “Down south, everything is about football.”
But why travel so far to play at NIACC?
“Mainly the scholarships,” Tejeda said. “Also I wanted to get away from home for a little bit.”
But when Chris came to NIACC, it wasn’t the only school trying to recruit him.
“There were a lot of smaller colleges,” Tejeda said. “(There were) a lot of junior colleges like Tyler Junior College, Hardin-Simmons (University), a lot of (NCAA) Division three schools, because of my size.”
Tejeda weighs 225 pounds and is six feet tall and is considered big compared to most people, but Tejeda is small compared to others who played his position in Texas. Strohmeier said he thought Tejeda may not be big enough to continue playing the position he played in high school even at NIACC.
“He was a defensive end in high school, and we moved him to linebacker and he started as a freshman,” Strohmeier said. “(We moved him) to project him out here. He is more fit to be a linebacker at his size. There was nothing he couldn’t do at (defensive) end, but he’s six foot, and he’d be going against 6’5” (offensive) tackles, and we felt this would be his best position.”
The change paid off for Tejeda. Tejeda had 73 tackles his freshman year, leading the team. Tejeda also had 12 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, seven passes deflected, a blocked kick, and a safety. He was an All-Region linebacker and made Preseason All-American.
And Strohmeier said he thinks he can still be better.
“He is still learning,” Strohmeier said. “It takes time to move from one position to another. I wouldn’t say he has learned everything at linebacker.”
Tejeda this year had 40 tackles and two tackles for loss after ten games.
As the season ends, Strohmeier will attempt to fill a void when Tejeda and the sophomores leave NIACC.
“I appreciate the contributions Chris has brought to this team over the past two years,” Strohmeier said. “Obviously he and the sophomores will be missed. They put this program back where it was after they went 2-6 last year. They brought back the foundation through their hard work.”
And Tejeda plans on taking that work ethic to the next level for football.
“I’ve contacted a few schools,” Tejeda says. “But I’m trying to get back to Texas to play next year.”
But even though Tejeda didn’t have a normal recruitment, he has had an ordinary experience at NIACC.
“I have enjoyed the experience,” Tejeda said. “I have enjoyed meeting and interacting with different people and the learning experience. Nothing is really different from home.”
At least something about Chris Tejeda is typical.