College football: Buffalo's Mack among best linebackers veteran assistant has taught
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack has 56 tackles for losses in his career, 19 shy of the Football Bowl Subdivision record. He is a prospective first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Lou Tepper is eligible for Medicare but says he keeps coaching college football because he doesn’t play golf. He needs more than four hands to count the number of linebackers he has helped reach the NFL.
“He not only wrote the book on linebacker play, but he’s writing the second edition to it,” Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said of his second-year defensive coordinator.
Tepper’s latest prodigy is Khalil Mack, whom Tepper would put on a Mount Rushmore of his former pupils.
“Simeon Rice was an outstanding pass rusher, next to Bruce Smith probably the best pass rusher I’ve had,” said Tepper, who once was coach at Illinois. “But Simeon was not a complete linebacker.”
A complete linebacker, as defined by Tepper, can handle the responsibilities of any linebacking position on the field. The most complete Tepper said he has coached were Mike Johnson at Virginia Tech, Kevin Hardy at Illinois and Bradie James at LSU.
“Khalil is in that family,” Tepper said. “He can play in space, he can play off the ball, he can rush the passer.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder has 56 tackles for loss — 19 from the Football Bowl Subdivision record — entering the start of his final season on Saturday at Ohio State. He is a prospective first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft after running 40 yards in 4.65 seconds for scouts in March.
“It’s humbling to me to know I worked so hard to get where I’m at, but at the same time it’s only a tool I use to keep pushing myself,” Mack said. “I strive for greatness. It’s something I feel I haven’t gotten to yet.”
His only scholarship offers out of high school in Fort Pierce, Fla., were from Buffalo and Liberty because he did not play varsity football until he was a senior.
“I messed up my knee playing basketball the summer after my sophomore year and didn’t want to play (football) after that,” Mack said.
“The spring of my junior year, the football coach asked me what would it take to get me on the football field. I told him I wanted to play but I’d have to talk with my mom and dad. My mom (was) more (worried) than my dad, but I was a little afraid myself because I didn’t want to deal with (a knee injury) again.”
Mack redshirted his first year at Buffalo and has gained 35 pounds since he arrived. He has benefited in other ways, too, since Tepper was hired nearly two years ago.
“He’s influenced me in a lot of ways, especially off the field (in) the way I approach the game, how I do film study, and my spirituality. Just being a whole person and being a solid person,” Mack said.
Being able to have that kind of influence, Tepper said, is what keeps him working. He will be 68 on Sept. 7.
“I’ve been blessed with the health and the energy and the passion to do what I do, and I love it,” Tepper said. “It’s a ministry for me. I just love working with young men and hopefully be able to positively influence them. I don’t know when the wheels are going to fall off.”