ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT Shines on Coach John Teerlinck, Friar Class of 1969

April 25, 2019

The former LaGrange Park resident and NFL ‘sack tasker’ is Fenwick’s newest inductee into the Chicago Catholic League Coaches’ Hall of Fame.

By Mark Vruno

A defensive lineman, the 6’3″ 225-lb. Teerlinck (#77) was CCL All-Conference for the Friars in his senior season of 1968. “Playing for Fenwick was a big deal,” he says.

Fenwick Fact: Highly acclaimed Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck ’69 is the only Friars’ alumnus with three Super Bowl rings from the National Football League (NFL). Teerlinck knows how to creatively apply pressure — in a football context, that is.

Teaching elite athletes the proper techniques needed to effectively rush the passer is his specialty, and the coach excelled at the collegiate and highest professional level. Teerlinck has coached in 32 NFL playoff games, including six AFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls.

He is one of only 23 coaches to win a Super Bowl with more than one team: two back to back with the Denver Broncos (1997 and 1998) in the John Elway era and one with the Indianapolis Colts (2006) in the Peyton Manning era. (“Sorry, Bears fans,” jokes Teerlinck, whose family moved when he was eight years old from upstate New York to suburban LaGrange Park, IL.)

In recognition of his sideline accomplishments, this evening the Chicago Catholic League (CCL) will induct Teerlinck, its native son, into the 2019 Coaches Association HALL OF FAME class. Many football observers refer to Coach “Link” as the GOAT: the greatest defensive line coach of all time. The “John Teerlinck Award” is given annually to the best defensive line coach in the NFL.

Teerlinck is being inducted into the CCL Coaches Association Hall of Fame on April 25, 2019.

“Coach Teerlinck has coached many former teammates of mine, and we have friends in common from throughout our professional careers,” says Gene Nudo, Fenwick’s present Head Coach, who was a coach and executive in the Arena Football League before joining the Friars in 2012. “It surprised me to learn that this great coach was an alum of Fenwick. He, like so many others, has done the ‘Shield’ proud with his many professional achievements,” which is what led Nudo to nominate Teerlinck for the CCL HOF honor.

Without much offensive fire-power, the ’68 season was a bit of a disappointment for the Friars and Teerlinck (#77).

When he played defensive line for Fenwick in the 1967 and ’68 seasons, the Fighting Friars’ varsity went a combined 10-5. After a 7-2 junior campaign, a 3-5 record as a senior was disappointing. The defensive unit gave up a respectable 15.5 points per game (ppg) in the autumn of 1968. However, an anemic offense could muster only nine touchdowns all year for a paltry average of 7.25 ppg. Teerlinck was an All-Conference selection and went on to become an All-American for the Western Illinois University (Macomb, IL) Leathernecks. “We used to get New York Giants games at Western and I’d watch No. 89, Fred Dryer, and copy his moves,” Teerlinck told Chicago Tribune writer Don Pierson in a 1992 article.

When he wasn’t playing football in college, Teerlinck was studying the moves of New York Giants’ 6’6” 240-lb. DE Fred Dryer on TV.

A member of Western Illinois University’s Hall of Fame (inducted in 2000), Teerlinck was a team co-captain and defensive MVP as a senior in 1973. He was the first WIU player ever to record four sacks in a single game and still remains one of only four Leathernecks to ever accomplish that feat.

Teaching the Art of the Sack

In 1974 he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers (fifth round, 101st overall pick) and started as a rookie. Teerlinck played four seasons, on the other side of ball from an offense led by future Pro Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts, until a severe knee injury led to his early retirement as a player. “When I played for the Chargers, I’d get updates on Fenwick and Chicago three to four times a year from referee Jerry Markbreit, who coached in the Catholic League,” Teerlinck said. (Markbreit is a fellow CCL Hall of Famer.)

50 years ago: John Teerlinck’s 1969 yearbook photo from Fenwick.

Some of football’s best quarterbacks feared many of the defensive linemen who trained under Teerlinck’s tutelage during nearly four decades spent coaching college and pro football. With four pro teams – the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Broncos and Colts — his players either set the record or came in second in total sacks.

Coach Teerlinck, who now is retired and recently celebrated his 68th birthday, stands 6’5” but many of his star speed rushers over the years were not quite as tall (see below). He coached 31 Pro Bowl (All-Star) players, including four defensive MVPs:

Perry

Michael Dean Perry, AFC Defensive Player of the Year (’89), Cleveland Browns. Out of Clemson, the Fridge’s younger, “little” brother, who is 6’1” and weighed 285 pounds, tallied 61 career sacks.

Doleman

Chris Doleman, NFC Defensive POY (’92), Minnesota Vikings. At 6’5” 290 lbs., he was a tall one. Doleman played collegiately at Pittsburgh, then registered 150.5 sacks during his NFL career.

Randle

John Randle, Minnesota Vikings; NFL sack leader in ’97; 137.5 career sacks. Randle stood only 6’1” and struggled to get his weight up to 275 lbs. College(s): Trinity Valley Community College and Texas A&M University – Kingsville (Div. II).

Freeney

Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts; 125.5 career sacks and a “patented” spin move. At 6’1” 270 lbs., he sprinted 120 feet in 4.48 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2002. The freakish athlete also could leap up to 40 inches vertically. College: Syracuse. (Freeney was a four-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, baseball and soccer!)

During his tenure, Teerlinck coached seven players (Bubba Baker, Doleman, Freeney, Kevin Greene, Robert Mathis, Randle and Neil Smith) to reach 100 career sacks: the ultimate benchmark for a defensive lineman. Both Doleman and Randle have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF). Teerlinck became only the ninth assistant coach selected to present a player at a HOF induction when he presented Randle in 2010

Motivational Coach

“Wax on, wax off, Daniel -san.”

His players remember their coach as an unconventional teacher who believed in their abilities and who also helped to motivate them to reach their potential. “John Teerlinck is kind of like Mr. Miyagi [the character in the ‘Karate Kid’ movies],” John Randle has said. “He’s very unorthodox: a different breed; rough around the edges. He tells you things that are funny, but they register if you just listen. That’s why he’s the guru.

The player and coach at Randle’s Pro Football HOF enshrinement nine years ago.

Here’s how Randle began his HOF acceptance speech in 2010: “First of all, I want to thank John Teerlinck for presenting me, motivating me, focusing me on the game that I love. I also want to say, John, thank you for saying I could excel and play in the National Football League, even though I wasn’t drafted, didn’t play for a major school. Also thank you for showing me what sometimes I didn’t see in myself.”

VIDEO: Coach Teerlinck shares his memories of DL John Randle.

A Proud Friar

Before coaching in college and the pros, however, Teerlinck was just proud to be a Fenwick Friar. “Going to Fenwick was a big deal,” he recalled last week from his home in Indiana. Literally thousands of boys would take the admissions test in those days, he said. “Only three of nine [boys] from my school got in,” remembers the straight-A student from St. Louise de Marillac. “About 150 guys would try out for football in those days.” Youthful John is pictured among the 47 new Friars in his freshman Blackfriars yearbook (1965-66) photograph. (The team finished 3-2-1.)

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Fenwick Junior Spent Two Weeks as a Cardiothoracic Surgical Intern

The adjective resourceful doesn’t even begin to describe Xonhane Medina, an ambitious teenager who excels in the classroom and in the pool as a girls’ water polo player.

By Mark Vruno

If there’s one thing that Fenwick go-getter Xonhane Medina doesn’t lack, it’s heart.

Most 16-year-olds can’t pronounce the medical term cardiothoracic, let alone know what is means. But last summer, Fenwick student Xonhane Medina ’20 — now a junior — spent two weeks in Northern California as a cardiothoracic intern at Stanford University. (For the record, cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of organs inside the thorax — generally treatment of conditions of the heart and lungs.)

Fenwick Girls’ water polo head coach Jack Wagner has a hard enough time pronouncing Medina’s first name. He affectionately calls her “Shawn.” And anyone who knows the gruff exterior of Wagner knows that Jack doesn’t brag. Here he was, however, bragging about Xonhane – not about her MCAC All-Conference status as a sophomore last season (his Friars took second in state, by the way). He was boasting about this phenomenal internship she orchestrated.

“This kid, she set up her own funding!” he exclaimed.

Every day, Medina received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp.

Due in part to being a huge fan of the “Grey’s Anatomy” TV series when she was younger, Ms. Medina was interested in doing some type of a medical-related internship. She began her search online. Her cousin’s fiancée is a pediatric surgeon at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, so Stanford was on her proverbial radar. A similar opportunity at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also had captured her attention.

“I knew they were a reach,” Ms. Medina admits. For one thing, Xonhane knew her family could not afford the $6,500 price tag. Yet, as the late advertising guru Leo Burnett once said: “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” So, Xonhane reached high.

Not knowing how to begin the process, she reached out to Paul Morgan, a director at the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, who became her educational sponsor.  Medina is one of the Fenwick students receiving financial aid from the Murphy organization, which for 29 years has been providing high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

She reached higher, next asking for letters of recommendation from Fenwick teachers, including Andy Arellano (speech) and Shana Wang (English) as well as, of course, Wagner, her coach. In early March she received her letter of acceptance. Subsequently, she received $4,000 from the Oak Park-based Farther Foundation. She put that money toward the $3,000 housing fee and air fare. She had enough money left over to buy some Stanford sweaters. “That was literally the only thing I bought,” reveals Medina, who, when she’s not doing homework or working out in the basement pool at Fenwick, works weekends as a cashier downtown at Navy Pier.

Internship Itinerary

The Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center Stanford Summer Internship is designed to educate high school and pre-medical students considering careers in science, medicine and public health in basic and advanced cardiovascular anatomy and physiology as well as medical and surgical techniques that will be used in pre-medical and medical school. In 2018 the two-week experience ran from June 24 – July 7.

The typical morning (9:30 a.m. – 12 noon) was dominated by lectures, according to Medina. Anatomy of the entire body was led by a pair of third-year medical students. Then, discussions on different types of surgeries were led by senior scientist Paul A. Chang, co-founder of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center. She learned that there are two main heart surgeries: 1) valve replacements and 2) coronary artery bypass grafts.

Xonhane clamped onto her two-week internship experience on the West Coast.

After lunch came four full hours of hands-on, laboratory time. “This was my favorite thing,” Xonhane offers, enthusiastically. Each day, she and her lab partner received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp. They learned how to use several cardiovascular, surgical instruments, such as:

  • forceps: a pair of pincers or tweezers used in surgery or in a laboratory.
  • Debakey forceps: a type of atraumatic tissue forceps used in vascular procedures to avoid tissue damage during manipulation. (They are typically large, and have a distinct coarsely ribbed grip panel, as opposed to the finer ribbing on most other tissue forceps.)
  • Gerald Tissue Forceps: a light- to intermediate-weight instrument with very narrow tips specifically used to handle delicate tissue. They are often used in cardiothoracic procedures. About seven inches in length with serrated tips, Geralds feature 1 x 2 teeth to securely grasp the tissue, but also have a stop peg to prevent an overly harsh grasp that may crush the tissue.
  • Mayo: Straight-bladed Mayo scissorsare designed for cutting body tissues near the surface of a wound.
  • aortic cross-clamps: surgical instruments used in cardiac surgery to clamp the aorta and separate the systemic circulation from the outflow of the heart.

She and her partner even had to apply sutures or stitches to aorta-dissected hearts. “We had competitions [with other interns] to see who could stitch the fastest,” Medina reports. “We also competed to see how fast we could ligate six [blood] vessels on the aorta.” The athlete in Xonhane liked the contests, but the fierce competitor is quick to point out that she came to Fenwick for academics — not for water polo.

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CCL Hall of Fame to Induct 4 Former Friars

tedesco_dominic

A cardiothoracic surgeon in California, Dominic Tedesco ’74 was an two-way, “ironman” football player at Fenwick who went on to play (and study) at the University of Michigan.

 

Congratulations to former Fenwick football standout Dominic Tedesco ’74, who on May 4 will be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame. Tedesco was a two-way starter at Fenwick, playing tight end on offense and strong safety/ linebacker on defense. His fourth-quarter and overtime heroics — a touchdown tying catch at the end of regulation and game-ending interception in overtime — culminated in a Friars’ victory over the Weber Red Horde. His senior season (1973) saw Fenwick defeat two different teams that each ranked #1 in the state. Dominic was named to the Catholic League All-Conference Team on offense and the All-State Team on defense. He received the Outstanding Student-Athlete Award from the Holy Cross Club of Chicago and was named to the New World All-America Team.

Tedesco went on to play at the University of Michigan while studying pre-med. He played on three Big Ten Championship teams, an Orange Bowl and Rose Bowls his junior and senior years. He was recognized by Sports Illustrated as one of the stars of the 1977 Rose Bowl game. He received All-Big Ten Academic Team honors in 1976 and 1977 and was named to the All-Big Ten Team in 1977. He was the first recipient of the Ernest T. Siglar Award presented annually to the outstanding University of Michigan scholar athlete.

Dominic attended Loyola Stritch School of Medicine and later did his general and cardiothoracic surgery residencies at Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center. He has been practicing cardiothoracic surgery in Southern California for 27 years and has performed more than 5,000 heart surgeries. Tedesco was invested as a Knight in the Order of Malta and serves on the medical team for the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France.

“I thank my mother, Delores, for being my biggest fan and supporter,” says the soon-to-be Hall of Famer, who lives in Southern California with his wife, Carolyn, “who gave me my three greatest treasures in life: Nicholas, Quentin and Carina.”

Joining Tedesco in the CCL HOF are three other 2017 inductees with Fenwick connections:

  • Don Sebestyen, dean of students and head varsity football coach from 1981-86.
  • Will Rey, Friars’ head varsity basketball coach from 1982-85, who also coached at Gordon Tech (now DePaul Prep) and is still coaching at the collegiate level.
  • Ed Formanski, who served as a counselor for years at Fenwick before moving to Hinsdale Central High School.