Gateway grad Jeter makes most of chance with Westminster
Todd Jeter had Division I college football on his mind as he wrapped up his senior year at Gateway.
He had committed to play at Temple University, and former Gateway head coach Terry Smith was heading there to become an assistant with the Owls.
Jeter had the proper grades and SAT scores, but NCAA rules as it relates to core-course requirements from high school kept Jeter from being able to enroll at Temple.
He was a part of summer camp workout with the Owls program, but he left before school started.
But Jeter was determined not to let the setback keep him down.
“I worked out, lifted and played basketball to stay in shape,” Jeter said. “I wanted another chance.”
That chance came at Westminster College, a Division III school an hour north of Pittsburgh, and Jeter has enjoyed a standout season as a starter at cornerback and as a key player in special teams.
With all the NCAA enrollment requirements worked out, Jeter, with the help of Smith, was introduced to Scott Benzel, a Plum native in his first year as the head coach of the Titans.
“Coach Smith and coach Benzel know each other from their days at Duquesne,” Jeter said.
“It was great the way things worked out the way they did.”
Jeter joined the team the Monday before the opener against Hiram College, and he was in the starting lineup for Westminster tough 30-27 loss to the Terriers.
“I know the concepts of defense, and it came down to the specific calls and audibles for the Westminster defense,” Jeter said. “It wasn’t hard to get everything down. It was just great to be back playing football. I was a little down not being able to play last year, but I was ready to get back and make plays.”
Through nine games, Jeter is fourth on the team in tackles with 50. He has three interceptions, including two in a 28-14 victory over St. Vincent on Nov. 1.
He also blocked a field goal and made a special teams tackle in the win, and for his efforts, he was named the PAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
“Being a secondary guy myself, I know how important it is to have good corners,” Benzel said.
“He has the speed and ability to cover, be he’s also willing to hit you. He shows up every Saturday. He can do everything on special teams, and we even thought about him at wide receiver when we had some injuries earlier in the season. When you have an athlete of his caliber, you try to use him as much as possible.”
Benzel said Jeter came in and worked hard and didn’t sulk about the way things didn’t work out with Temple.
“He’s really done everything possible to be a better athlete and student since the time he stepped on campus,” Benzel said.
“We’ve challenged him, and he’s responded.”
Jeter, as a freshman, has three years of eligibility remaining.
Westminster has won three of its last four games after an 0-5 start.
That rough start included a 21-14 overtime setback to PAC foe Bethany and a 30-27 loss at Carnegie Mellon.
The game against CMU ended on a 50-yard field goal that bounced off the cross bar and went through the goal post with no time remaining.
The loss to Hiram was frustrating for Westminster as it held a 24-3 lead at halftime and a 27-10 advantage to start the fourth quarter.�
The Titans beat Thiel, 40-28, on homecoming Oct. 11 for their first victory.
“The first win was great,” Jeter said.
“We were really down in the first part of the year. The win really got us going.”
After a tough 26-21 loss to Waynesburg and a bye week, the Titans came back to defeat St. Vincent and collect a 41-7 triumph over Grove City on Saturday.
Westminster closes its campaign with a 1 p.m. game Saturday at rival Geneva.
“It’s really important to win on Saturday to finish the season strong after the way we started,” Jeter said.
“It’s also important to get the win going into the offseason. It’s just been a great feeling to be able to help the team. I have a special bond with the other players.”
Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at [email protected].