Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Teat leads the Red with strength and selflessness, setting the example for other players.

September 7, 2020

The Sun’s Male Senior Athlete of the Year 2020: Lacrosse’s Jeff Teat

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Senior attackman and captain Jeff Teat’s skill, drive and selflessness are three of the qualities that earned the Canadian box lacrosse product a place in Cornell’s record books and the title of The Sun’s Male Senior Athlete of the Year.

The hours that Teat spent honing his craft have transformed him into the phenom that he is. At 5-foot-10, 170 lbs, he is not the biggest, nor the fastest, nor the strongest. Rather, he is consistently the smartest player on the field — visualizing plays before they happen and always seeming to pick out the right pass to set up a teammate.

Teat’s career accomplishments have been nationally touted. In both 2018 and 2019, he was a nominee for the Tewaaraton Award — colloquially known as the Heisman Trophy of lacrosse. This year, he was named to the award’s watch list, but the award itself was not given due to the season’s cancellation.

From the start of his time at Cornell, it was apparent that the Brampton, Ontario native was going to be special. Scoring 72 points during his freshman year, Teat broke the freshman record previously held by attackman Rob Pannell ’13.

The next season, Teat was a catalyst for his struggling team, launching it to a 13-5 record and NCAA Tournament appearance. Teat cites the season’s Ivy League Championship victory and win over rival Syracuse in the Carrier Dome as some of his favorite moments in a Cornell uniform.

“Our 2018 playoff push was memorable. We weren’t highly rated but came out with some big wins,” he said.

Much of the team’s success stemmed from Teat’s selflessness. Facilitating a whopping 62 assists across 18 games, he led all of Division I at the time in feeds. His 99 total points stand as the 24th all-time best single season point total in NCAA Division I history.

“Teammates are the most important piece of success,” he said. “I always got to play with teammates that made playing easy.”

After being named a USILA All-American as a sophomore, it was clear that Teat was the Red’s talisman. Consequently, he earned the honor to wear the team’s symbolic hardhat in honor of the late George Boiardi ’04. The meaningful distinction that separates this tradition from other accolades is the responsibility of the job — coaches select a junior who epitomizes pride, respect and heart.

“It means a lot knowing that the players who came before us did so much for this program both on and off the field,” Teat said.

In 2019, the team gained national attention and was featured on “The Season” documentary. Teat channeled all his power to lead the Red in points (70) and assists (36) on the big stage, but ultimately the team did not earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The end-of-season disappointment fueled Teat’s fire for his senior year. Improvements showed early on in 2020, as he propelled Cornell to an undefeated 5-0 start. In what proved to be the final game of the season, the team’s biggest challenge came from Penn State. In clutch fashion, Teat stepped up when his team needed him the most. Scoring the game-tying goal with seconds left, Teat laid the groundwork for a dramatic win that was secured just moments later.

“Every time we get to put on the big red uniform it means a lot,” Teat said.

In retrospect, Teat recognized that much of his growth has actually occurred off the field — affirming that classroom lessons have deeply impacted his mentality for the future.

“To continue to be the best version of yourself no matter what you are doing — that’s a standard that we hold each other to all the time,” Teat said.

The future is bright for Teat, as he was selected as a draft pick in two different outdoor lacrosse professional leagues. On May 4th, the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse chose Teat with the 25th pick. Two nights later, the Chaos Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League selected him with the 12th pick.

Despite these professional opportunities, Teat will be making his return to Cornell for the 2021 season. The decision essentially replicates the process Pannell previously went through to withdraw as a senior and re-enroll for the following spring semester during lacrosse season.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen to athletics in the future, we can be sure to expect great things from The Sun’s pick for Male Senior Athlete of the Year, Jeff Teat.