By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – The Dartmouth College football team has some behemoths on its offensive line. Eleven players at that position are at least 6-foot-5. Seven of them weigh 300 pounds or more.
Then there is senior center Max Telemaque. The Jersey City, N.J., native is listed at 5-11 and 275 pounds but that might be generous. The math major wasn’t recruited and couldn’t join the team until after the preseason his freshman year.
To be frank, Telemaque was cannon fodder for the defensive line during most practices his first two seasons. He was repeatedly knocked aside, bowled over and driven backwards as if he were on skates. There would sometimes be an awkward silence after one of these demolitions. No one wanted to utter the obvious: No. 69 couldn’t cut it at the Division I level.
In one of the Big Green’s most startling transformations in recent memory, however, Telemaque is no longer a pushover. Workout videos filtered back to the football offices during last year’s enforced Covid-19 layoff, showing the junior working on his footwork, lifting weights religiously and pushing his father’s car around the neighborhood.
During the current preseason, Telemaque has not only held his own in contact drills, it’s obvious he’s become one of the guys and even a leader. Bulked-up and possessing an intricate knowledge of the line’s complex shifts, protections and pulls, he’s now a better player than many of those who literally look down upon him.
“When he was younger, guys used to run over him and it was like, ‘Oh my god, poor Max’,” said offensive line coach Keith Clark, whose team opens its season Saturday at Valparaiso (Ind.) University. “He finally just threw a spear in the ground and said ‘I’m going to stand up for myself by improving myself’.”
Telemaque has seen brief, mop-up duty in two varsity home games. It’s quite possible he’ll see more action this season, a testament to his work ethic and determination.
“You have to shake it off and not put your head down, because that’s when people will really dig into you,” Telemaque said. “If you keep your head up and act like nothing’s wrong, you can get through a lot of things, in football and in life.”
Telemaque started three years at guard for St. Peter’s Prep, a strong New Jersey program he said sent 11 players to college football from his senior class. He competed against opponents he now sees in NFL games but because of his size, wasn’t viewed as a viable college recruit above the Division III level.
Dartmouth, however, was his dream school. Telemaque attended its summer football camp and was in contact with defensive coordinator Don Dobes, whose recruiting territory includes the Garden State. When Telemaque got into the college without an athletics admissions slot, he immediately called the coach to again plead his case.
Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who began his own Big Green career tenth on the freshman team’s quarterback depth chart in 1975, agreed to take Telemaque on, partially because his squad was short offensive linemen for practice. Clark wasn’t sure the newcomer would last more than a season, but found that he soaked up instruction and improved, if only in tiny ways at first.
“This position is about development over the course of time,” Clark said. “Max has made himself into a competent football player through the weight room and he works his ass off. It’s really what he does off the field that’s made him a guy we can count on.”
Telemaque’s improvement and upbeat and indefatigable personality is an example to his teammates. More-talented players are sparked by his efforts and youngsters struggling down the depth chart see what dogged persistence can accomplish.
“He’s a technician and detailed and meticulous and he’s built himself up,” Teevens said. “It’s inspiring to see a guy who doesn’t have the natural tools and gifts that other guys do, but he’s making the most of what he has. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Telemaque’s father, Patrick, is an IT contractor and his mother, Vima, is a federal immigration court judge. Their son landed a 10-week internship earlier this year with investment banking giant Morgan Stanley in New York City, and he’ll return there to work a fulltime job following his graduation at the end of this term.
“As a freshman, I decided I’d take a math class and keep taking them until they stopped making sense,” Telemaque said. “When you’re a math major, people know you’re good with numbers and that you can think and problem solve. That’s the big thing (employers) are looking for.”
Succeeding at Morgan Stanley requires handling a high-pressure grind. Lengthy work days and nonstop stress are financially rewarding, but certainly not for everyone. There’s a reason investment firms love Ivy League athletes and Telemaque is a prime example.
“I’m going to treat it like football,” he said. “Playing a sport and going to school, we already work investment-banking hours, although we can take a nap here and there.
“Both situations are ones where half the country would take your spot in a second.”
Telemaque has certainly earned his place on the Big Green roster. To watch him stride confidently to the line of scrimmage and crouch over the ball before pointing to defensive threats and calling out adjustments is almost to forget his earlier struggles.
“He’s a kid who showed up out of the blue and just kept showing up,” Clark said. “He approaches what he does every day with sincerity and his teammates love him.”
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