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University of Oklahoma
Teddy Lehman is never satisfied. During a brilliant senior season in which he led Oklahoma with 109 tackles and won the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award, he was asked if any aspect of his game needed improvement.
"Everything," he replied. "I don't care who you are. You can always improve."
"That's why Teddy is the player that he is," said Brent Venables, the Sooners defensive coordinator. "He's extremely critical of his play and very hard on himself. Often, I have to convince him that he's pretty good."
The 6-2, 240-pound Lehman is pretty good, all right. The proof is right there in his trophy case. He is the winner of the Maxwell Club's ninth annual Chuck Bednarik Award as the outstanding defensive player in college football for the 2003 season. He also won the Dick Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker.
"He's a great player and he proves that over and over again," said Lance Mitchell, Lehman's Oklahoma teammate. "He's also a strong leader. He has a lot of heart, which is important."
Lehman was an all-around standout at Fort Gibson (Ok.) High School, excelling as a running back, linebacker and punter. His 39.6 yard punting average was the best in Oklahoma's Class 4A. Lehman was thrust into the Sooners' defense as a true freshman in the 2000 season and performed well enough to help OU win the national championship.
"We knew he had athletic ability, that's why we recruited him," Venables said. "But a lot of the things, the intangibles that you can't measure on a watch or on a stick, you don't find out until he's here. And those are the things, the toughness, the natural instinct that he has."
Lehman is a student of the game, studying film and breaking down opponents, finding keys and tendencies that he can exploit. Venables said: "What sets him apart now is his ability to read an offense and anticipate what its next move will be. He has a coach's knowledge of the game now."
In the 2002 season, Lehman moved from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker, replacing Rocky Calmus, who graduated to the NFL. The switch allowed Lehman to better utilize his speed. He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds, which is faster than many receivers and backs.
In 2003, Lehman was the defensive catalyst on an Oklahoma team that finished with a 12-2 record and held eight opponents to 13 points or fewer. In a three-game span, the Sooners defeated 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor by a combined score of 170-12.
"Our coaches do a great job of giving us the opportunity to make plays," Lehman said. "For me, it's all about being able to execute. The coaches have me playing where I should and I just have to do it out on the field.