It all sounds like this beautiful, inspiring college football story.
Kid is a star at a small high school. Colleges are scared to recruit him. Kid walks on to a Division I football team. He plays sparingly his first year. Then a little more his second season. He earns a scholarship. Then he plays in every game. He gets a couple of starts. And, finally, after years and years of under appreciation and tireless work, he becomes a for-sure starter, the leader of a defense.
Those are the football dreams sold by every coach in America. And if it actually comes to fruition, it is a miracle.
The story of Boise State’s Alexander Teubner — from walk-on to starting safety — is magical to some. To him, it was expected.
“A lot of the questions I’ve seen asked to him, it’s almost as if he’s in a fairy tale,” said Teubner’s dad, Justin. “Like he’s lucky to be there. … If they got a peek into what was really going on in his head, they’d see a stark difference.”
It started at Seaside High School in Oregon, where Teubner’s graduating class was just over 100. The Seagulls football program had an acronym players lived by: MOC — Making of Champions. Teubner embraced that.
When he was a freshman, at 5-foot-7, 125 pounds playing varsity running back, Teubner took a carry towards the end of the game. As he was tackled, a defensive lineman pinned his leg and pulled in the wrong direction. Teubner’s tibia and fibula — just above the growth plate in his ankle — snapped instantly.
While Teubner’s foot was dangling the wrong way, and the Seaside coaches yelling for him to stay down, he rose to his feet and tried to hop off the field. Teubner managed to play on the baseball team a few months later.
That is how champions are made.
As he grew, Teubner was a far more prolific running back than defender. During his senior season, Teubner ran for over 2,400 yards and 44 (!) touchdowns for a Seaside team that fell in the state title game (Teubner ran 31 times for 211 yards and three touchdowns in that game).
Those numbers at least earned him a look from Division I coaches, but skepticism about his competition level didn’t take the conversations very far.
No schools felt comfortable enough offering a scholarship to Teubner. Even nearby Portland State — a mediocre team in the Big Sky — wouldn’t pull the trigger.
“The recruiter (at Portland State) tried pretty hard to convince him to come on as a preferred walk-on,” said Justin Teubner. “I still remember the phone call. He told them, ‘I appreciate your time, coach. But I consider myself a Division I talent, so if I walk on it’s gonna be at a Division I school.”
Asked if the lack of recruiting interest frustrated him, Teubner took a breath.
“I’m not trying to,” Teubner said, pausing for seven seconds before restarting. “I mean, naturally it puts a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, right? But, I mean, people always think it’s such a big deal to me. Honestly, we kind of laughed at it.
“I knew coming out of a small town in Seaside, Oregon, we didn’t have big schools coming through,” Teubner continued. “I knew the walk-on route was gonna be my route. But I was always confident that if I got my opportunity, I’d be able to take advantage of it.”
Even by walk-on standards, Teubner wasn’t much of a priority to Boise State in the recruiting process.
When Teubner and his dad took a visit to Boise for the Broncos’ spring game in 2019, no one bothered to give them a customized lanyard. While every recruit and parent walked around with their names around their neck, the Teubner’s lanyards simply said “Guest.”
Even after graduation passed and summer began to wind down, Teubner still didn’t even have a walk-on spot on Boise State’s roster. Every year, the Teubners go on a camping trip in late-July, early-August — also known as the start of fall camp and Teubner, with no college options, was planning on going.
Boise State eventually called at the 11th hour. The camping trip was cancelled. Teubner moved into the dorms in the middle of July, months after most freshman had already unpacked.
“He wasn’t just a walk-on, he was like literally the last kid invited,” Justin Teubner said, “I think there were a couple of kids who didn’t work out for whatever reasons and he was a late invite.”
But a late invite is still an invite, still an opportunity to prove yourself.
“Honestly, when Boise State said I could come walk on, that was the one. There wasn’t like a choice between any other schools,” Teubner said. “My plan was pretty much just get in the building and just work my way up from there. .. “If I got in the building, I knew I’d have a chance.”
Said Boise State head coach Andy Avalos: “That dude has a chip on his shoulder to prove something — maybe from not getting recruited. Plain and simple, we’re very fortunate that he chose Boise State for his opportunity to play.”
What is remarkable about Teubner is he’s never let the fire die. Probably because Teubner is not exactly trying to prove people wrong. He has always believed he was a great football player. Whether or not college coaches saw that didn’t change his vision. He thought he was a great football player when he was a fourth-string freshman safety and, now as a starting safety, he still thinks he’s a great football player.
“He thought from year one, he had the talent to be on the field,” Justin Teubner said. “It was just the difference of what he believed should happen and what was happening. … He just has a drive that I’ve never seen in any human in my entire life.”
And, to be clear: A great football player does not mean a perfect football player. Teubner is his own harshest critic, always searching for every little mistake he can correct.
Even after the 2022 Frisco Bowl, where Teubner started in place of JL Skinner and recorded a career-high 12 tackles, he still thinks about a technique mistake that led to a 53-yard completion in the first quarter.
If you ask him about his performance in Boise State’s 2021 upset at BYU, when Teubner became a mini-legend, coming on the field after Skinner’s targeting ejection and forcing a fumble while recovering another, he could probably find a dozen things he could have done better.
That stuff becomes contagious in a locker room. Boise State coaches love talking about Teubner because every time they recruit a kid, they’re hoping to find someone with even half of his drive.
A few months ago, current Boise State commit Connor Warkentin was on his official visit to Boise State with his dad. One day, they went to go check out Boise State’s indoor facility. The Broncos had already had a few workouts that day, so it was supposed to be empty. Then Teubner walked in behind them.
“He was not supposed to be there.” Warkentin said. “(Later), I was in the special teams meeting and they were showing clips of him on kickoff (from the Fresno State game) and they were using him as the example for everyone else. … Just seeing him around the facility, that dude is definitely the dude around there this year.”
Now, understand that is coming from someone who was in Boise State’s facilities for two days. It took less than 24 hours for a stranger to walk into halls of the program and understand the importance of Teubner.
“He works like he’s the underdog,” defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said.
Added safeties coach Kane Ioane: “Teubs has been a guy who constantly felt like, ‘No, I’m never satisfied, I want to keep pushing.’”
“He knows what got him here,” Justin Teubner said. “Him and I talk about having the walk-on mentality at all times. … If you always have that attitude, and you’re always the hardest worker and not just when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, it’s a lot easier to keep progressing.”
It is easy, even now, to overlook Teubner. To some he is still the walk-on. He has been at Boise State for four years, racked up just over 50 tackles and never snatched an interception. And, well, he does not look like Skinner. He is not 6-foot-4 with skyscraper legs, never mind that most NFL safeties aren’t much bigger than he is (5-11, 198 pounds).
Few outside of Boise State’s facility know much about Teubner. Even less have grandiose expectations of him. And, well, Teubner doesn’t really care.
“With all due respect to your guy’s jobs, my plans have never been shifted on an outside view of what people think I’m capable of,” he said. “I’ve had concrete visions and goals and I’ve been able to accomplish, in due time, all of those up to this point. And I’ve got more in mind.
“My long-term goal is to play this game for a long time. So, yeah, I do have goals. It’s not my job to put myself on a poster of whether or not I should be looked at that way. But I know my personal goals for myself.”