LAWRENCE — As a senior at Rockhurst (Mo.) High during the 2006-07 school year, Conner Teahan was an all-district quarterback in football and The Kansas City Star's All-Metro player of the year in basketball. A look at his 6-foot-5 frame and his ostentatiously decorated letter jacket spelled out one thing very clearly: The kid had options.
If Teahan had decided once and for all that he wanted to be a quarterback instead of a college basketball player, he probably would have signed with a Division I football program. The problem was, he couldn't decide. As the year wore on and Teahan continued to consider both sports, the football programs had no choice but to pull their scholarship offers because they couldn't risk ending up getting shut out on quarterbacks in their recruiting class.
"It's different if you play any other position," Rockhurst football coach Tony Severino said. "He was kind of caught in flux there. So a lot of people pulled back and said 'We can't commit a scholarship to him if he's not absolutely positively sure.' "
Of course, this was all OK because Teahan's heart belonged to Kansas basketball, and KU coach Bill Self eventually invited Teahan to walk on and play for the Jayhawks. There were more options — Teahan said he was offered scholarships to play basketball at some Missouri Valley Conference schools — but the only option that mattered to him was KU and Allen Fieldhouse and the team that raised him.
When Teahan arrived in Lawrence, he had to think that he was done with football. So imagine what Teahan must have felt like Wednesday afternoon, trotting around the KU football practice fields wearing a No. 9 red no-contact jersey and listening to offensive coordinator Chuck Long instruct him to "start at the back of the line and copy what the guy does in front of you."
Teahan the football player is back — at least until April 24, the day of KU's spring game. At that point, KU coach Turner Gill and Long will have seen enough to figure out whether Teahan has the skill to potentially start at quarterback for the Jayhawks, presumably in the future. Gill said Teahan would have three years of eligibility if he were to make the team.
"Obviously," Gill said, "it's a long shot."
But hey, why not give it a try? With one year of basketball eligibility left and the writing on the wall that he is unlikely to crack the Jayhawks' regular rotation, Teahan has nothing to lose. And neither does Gill, who has to find a suitable replacement for Todd Reesing, the most prolific quarterback in KU history.
For at least the next few weeks, Teahan will be in the mix with scholarship quarterbacks Kale Pick, Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Christian Matthews and fellow walk-on Jacob Morse. Long said KU will not carry six quarterbacks after spring ball, so Teahan won't have much time to round back into form.
If nothing else, he appears to have good timing. The rest of KU's quarterbacks have only had a month head start in learning Gill and Long's offense.
"If we were in year two or three, he'd be way, way behind," Long said. "All the other guys would have a lot of experience. (Now), he could catch up pretty quick here."
No doubt, Teahan will do whatever he can to make up the difference. Teahan is a competitor, and his drive hasn't been dulled by spending the last three years as a very apt basketball practice squad player. The day after KU lost to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament, Teahan called Severino and asked his old coach what he thought about a return to football.
"You'll never have this opportunity again," Severino told him.
Teahan ran the idea by Self first.
"I strongly encouraged him to do that," Self said. "It might not work out, but we'll never know if it'll work out or not unless he tries."
Severino said he will be heading to a KU spring practice very soon.
"He just wants to compete at a major college level," Severino said. "He says he's never lost his love for it."