For some, football is just a pastime: a pick up game here, a youth team there, maybe play a little in high school. But for those that dream of playing at the next level, collegiate or professional, football becomes a way of life.
For Waconia native Eli Teeselink, that passion for football and a desire to play in college is carrying him all the way to Bradenton, Florida, where Teeselink will spend his senior year of high school studying and playing football at IMG Academy.
IMG Academy is a private, coeducational boarding school that is renowned as an elite training facility for not only high school athletes, but collegiate and professional players as well.
The football program is run by Chris Weinke, a Minnesota native who is a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback. With impressive statistics about the number of its students that play collegiate athletics, Teeselink hopes the IMG football program will help him too, although he doesn’t have his heart set on a specific school just yet.
“There is not one college that I am dead set on and I am keeping an open mind to anything,” he said. “I would just like to play at the college that is the best fit for me, and I would like to play at the highest division of football that I can.”
Teeselink, and his parents Dean and DJ, first heard about IMG Academy in November of 2013. Earlier last year, Teeselink signed up for the National Collegiate Scouting Association, an organization that helps athletes and their families navigate the world of college recruiting.
Teeselink was contacted by a coach from IMG Academy, but at first didn’t really consider the offer.
“At first, I did not think anything of it, but they kept pushing and pushing me with emails and phone calls and they asked me to apply,” Teeselink said. “I applied, got accepted, and the next step was taking a visit. We took a visit in March, and after that I knew IMG Academy was where I wanted to be for my senior year of high school.”
Teeselink said the doors of opportunity are more open for him by spending his last year of high school at IMG Academy.
“The resources, the coaching, the football atmosphere, and the connections that are all shared at IMG can’t be found at any other place in the country,” he said. “I want to chase my dream of playing college football at the highest level possible and IMG is definitely a huge help in that process.”
IMG Academy takes football and learning to the next level, challenging its students with a college-like experience. Students at the boarding school attend classes in the morning and then spend the afternoon focusing on their sport. Football never stops at IMG, so Teeselink will have to give up wrestling, his other varsity sport at WHS.
Teeselink has been playing football since he was five years old and said he truly fell in love with the game when he started in a tackle league in the fifth grade.
Teeselink said IMG Academy has expressed interest in keeping him at center, a position he held on the WHS varsity team under both head coaches Pat Foley and Sam Baker the last two seasons. Overall, Teeselink said he wants to improve on the fundamentals of the game.
“You can always improve your hands, feet, base, and technique as an offensive lineman,” he said.
In addition, he wants to gain a deeper knowledge of the game that goes beyond the playbook.
“I want to dig deeper and learn more ins and outs of the sport,” he said. “I want to improve my ability as an all around athlete regarding strength, size, speed, and agility.”
Parents Dean and DJ said that while it will be hard having their son leave home a year early, they know the opportunity is too good to pass up.
“This is truly a once in a lifetime experience for Eli and he has the opportunity to chase his dream,” DJ Teeselink said. “Eli has done all the hard work. We are just supporting, guiding, and encouraging him.”
Teeselink said that while he will certainly miss his friends, family, and community while he’s away, he’s excited for this new opportunity.
“I think the only thing I really am nervous about is the unknown, and that will all get figured out in the next few weeks,” he said. “I am super excited to start living with all the guys, training, working with all my coaches and teammates, and learning the playbook. We use a college/NFL-based playbook, so I have a lot to learn before the first game on August 23 against Godby High School.”
Contact Melissa Marohl at firstname.lastname@example.org