Frostburg's Telleria plays big

November 20, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Go ahead. Tell Gilbert Telleria that he's too small, too inexperienced, not strong enough to lead a football team. Then watch him turn the snubs to his advantage.

He has heard or sensed the doubts for years, dating to the days of elementary school sandlot games, when he waited until most players had been picked before his name was called.

As a fifth-grade quarterback in his first year of organized football, he remembers making people forget about his diminutive size, once he showed his scrambling ability and ran for a few scores. At Potomac High School in Northern Virginia, Telleria spent two years backing up future Notre Dame signee B. J. Hawkins before getting his chance as a senior. Telleria brought the Panthers to within two points of a state championship and a perfect season.

"I always had to work harder than other guys to do well. Psychologically, it affected me. If I made one mistake, they'd come down on me," Telleria says. "I was always smaller than the other kids, but I've always had an edge in quickness. I guess people don't notice your size after you perform well."

People aren't talking much about Telleria's 5-foot-9, 160-pound proportions these days.

They talk about a quarterback whose strength -- he bench-presses an astounding 300 pounds -- big-play ability and leadership are the driving forces behind Frostburg

State University's first Division III playoff appearance today at Wilkes University (Pa.). They talk about a junior, who, after two years as an apprentice, has put his stamp on the Bobcats' wing-T offense in dynamic fashion.

"Gilbert is an exceptional athlete, a great option runner with great moves, and he's smart," offensive tackle Mo Cifuentes says. "He makes us play better. As long as we give him time, he can do anything."

Telleria did it all while leading the Bobcats to a 9-1 finish during the regular season. With surprising inside power and shifty moves that helped him break outside, he rushed for 406 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards. He is the second-leading rusher in a backfield that goes five deep.

Frostburg State's offense is geared toward the run, yet Telleria has bailed it out of many jams with long passes. Although he averages barely 12 pass attempts per game, Telleria has thrown for 1,494 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 23 yards on 65 completions.

"Gilbert is by far the quickest and strongest quarterback I've ever coached. I don't think about his size. He fits our offense perfectly," says Mike McGlinchey, the Bobcats' second-year coach. "After watching him in practice all of last year, there was no doubt in my mind that he could be a great player and a great leader. And I don't think he's reached his potential."

Telleria, 20, is lucky to have reached this point. The second-youngest of five children, he was born in Nicaragua in 1973. His father owned a taxi service, making the Tellerias one of the more well-to-do families in the neighborhood.

The comfort didn't last. In 1979, civil war broke out and gradually engulfed the country. Violence reached their doorstep.

"I remember the sounds of bullets whizzing by our house. I remember seeing the bullet holes in our house," Telleria says. "The war interfered with our everyday life. You couldn't get away from it. My parents didn't want to leave, but we had to leave."

The Tellerias fled Nicaragua in late 1979, came to the United States, stayed with relatives for a year in Fort Washington, Md., then settled in an apartment in Alexandria, Va. They began the arduous task of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. Gilbert remembers confronting the pain of discrimination.

"That was the toughest part," he says. "I didn't understand why people were making fun of me. My size, my accent, my heritage."

Telleria persevered in school, where he learned English by the third grade and grew fond of football.

And he set about destroying the notion that a small kid couldn't succeed as a quarterback. His experience at Potomac was a huge confidence boost, and when he enrolled at Frostburg State, Telleria had to summon the same patience while playing ** understudy to Mike Jones for two seasons. Last summer, McGlinchey handed Telleria the ball.

"I just wanted to prove I could play," Telleria says.

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