ANNAPOLIS — It wasn't a pleasant memory, but Navy fullback Alexander Teich discussed it anyway Monday. After all, Teich won't soon forget when coach Ken Niumatalolo informed him he would be suspended for a game.
"Tears; I was heartbroken," Teich said. "It was like putting a bullet through my heart when he told me that. You're so dedicated to what you're doing here and to have that taken away hurt."
Teich sat out Saturday's 63-35 loss to Southern Mississippi for what Niumatalolo described as "some leadership stuff and things he needs to address" in the wake of a loss to Air Force. Teich was reinstated and practiced with the Midshipmen (2-3) on Monday.
He'll play Saturday when Navy visits Rutgers (4-1), yet not without remembering his team is far different than most populating major college football.
Winning is important, but so is the academy's larger mission.
"I think he put so much pressure of the Air Force game on himself that he did some things that were uncharacteristic for him," Niumatalolo said. "But he's paid his price and it's over with. ... If some people heard why I suspended him, I guarantee you no one in the country suspended him for what he did."
Teich is Navy's second-leading rusher with 408 yards and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Delvin Diggs rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns in his absence Saturday.
Niumatalolo praised Teich for the support he provided on the sideline. But Teich acknowledged it was "brutal" to watch Navy lose its third straight and not be able to impact the course of the game.
"He's sitting on the sideline; it's probably a pretty bad feeling knowing you literally can't do anything," quarterback Kriss Proctor said. "At least when you're playing, you can run faster, block harder, something like that. I can't imagine how he was feeling on the sideline watching it."
Niumatalolo did not delve deeply into the root of Teich's suspension. The senior said after the Mids' Oct. 1 loss to Air Force he thought a pivotal unsportsmanlike conduct call in overtime was "pitiful."
It was a heated comment, but also a window into Teich's passion for the sport while playing a position hardly meant for the timid. The Texan yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup the past two seasons because of injury.
His rugged and selfless play also helped prompt teammates to vote him a captain. Plenty of good comes from Teich's approach.
"That's part of my problem sometimes - I let my emotions get the best of me," Teich said. "That's something I always try to control, but at the same time I can't change who I am just from one instance. I have to watch what I do sometimes, but I'm not going to not play with this emotion. That's what's got me this far in life, and it's who I am."
Teich is expected to start Saturday as the Mids attempt to end their longest losing streak since 2002. He'll do so with a greater appreciation for the handful of games remaining in his career and the painful one-week hiatus never far from mind.
"There's things you can't do at this school that you can possibly get away with at another school," Teich said. "Being a captain here, you're held to an even higher standard, and I have to uphold those standards at all times. Everybody's watching and everybody sees what you do, and I have to make sure I'm doing the right thing at all times."
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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