University School is a Division III school located in Hunting Valley, Ohio, which is a town in the Cleveland-area. The school itself is a private, exclusive all-boy school that is very strong academically. But as far as football is concerned, University School does not seem to be a place where big-time college coaches come looking for talent.
"The large division I schools don't know about us," said Head Coach Jim Stephens.
The lack of attention from D-I programs doesn't mean that the school hasn't had some great athletes. The tennis program is second-to-none, and the school has athletes who are often recruited by Ivy League colleges (one name you might recognize is Jason Garrett, the QB who made a name for himself as a back-up for the Dallas Cowboys). Yet the football team has the odds stacked against them.
The Preppers were 2-8 last season and have never made the playoffs (they have actually not been part of the OHSAA very long), but that doesn't mean they are a bad team. They are not a very big team and suffer from a lack of numbers (the amount of players ranges in the 30s and 40s). University School is an independent school that is always looking to pick up games, and they often face some of the other powerhouse private schools in the area, like Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Gates Mills Hawken and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph's. The players on the team work hard and were often very competitive in their games last year, but they didn't quite have enough to beat some of those stronger teams.
Despite those obstacles, Jeff Terrell perseveres. Opposing teams realize Jeff is a standout player, so they focus their defensive attack around him. Coach Stephens says this helps give him one of his strongest qualities as a player -- his toughness. "He gets hit a lot, but he has to be able to take hits," the Coach said (Coincidentally, Jeff mentioned Brett Favre as the NFL player he looked up to because of his toughness).
Jeff put up solid numbers last season -- he threw for 2009 yards and 14 TDs on 165 for 329 passing. Coach Stephens says that had it not been for dropped passes, the stats would have been higher, but in reality, those dropped passes may show what kind of arm Jeff has. "He has a very strong arm and sometimes throws too hard for the wide receivers," said Coach Stephens.
Jeff, who is 6-3, 205 pounds and runs a 4.8 in the 40, has a lot more strengths than just his arm. Coach Stephens said Jeff is very intelligent, modest, disciplined, and is a leader as well. "He's a sterling character," the coach said. "Even though he's clearly our star player, he's a great leader and the players like him."
Like other University School athletes before him, Jeff is being recruited by some Ivy League schools, and while Jeff acknowledges the appeal of the Ivy League's academics, he's definitely listening to the big-time college football programs as well. Right now, his top five (in no order) is Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Virginia, and Northwestern. This summer, he plans on camping at Princeton and Dartmouth as well as possibly Michigan, and he is also going to make a trip to Stanford as well. Jeff mentioned Business and Economics as possible majors in college.
In addition to his goal of getting to one of those colleges, Jeff said he wants to surpass 5,000 passing yards for his career and have a much better touchdown-to-interception ratio this coming season. But that's not his first priority. "The biggest goal is to try to get the team to the playoffs," Jeff said.
Off-the-field, Jeff is an honors student and mentioned that one of the things he enjoys doing is working on a literary magazine for his school that publishes works from other students called The Record. Jeff will be the editor of the magazine next year. We're used to hearing players say they like to play video games on their Playstation in their spare time, but Jeff was an exception. "I don't have a Playstation," he said.
The sky seems to be the limit for Jeff both on and off the field, and Coach Stephens agrees. "He's a great player and is only going to get better," the coach said. "He hasn't begun to tap all of his talent." Remember the name Jeff Terrell because once he does tap that talent, he could be a hidden gem no longer!
Check back soon for more of Ohio's Future Stars' Hidden Gems!