Somewhere along the line on Saturday night, if head coach Matt Rhule keeps a promise, Nick Sharga will carry the football for Temple’s 25th-ranked football team and it will be an appropriate reward for the team’s most unsung hero.
Sharga, a 6-2, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, is just the kind of player teams need more of and just the kind of player Rhule has built a respected program upon. Three weeks ago, Rhule said the team is going to give him the ball at some point and, with one more regular-season game left, that time will probably be on Saturday night (7 p.m.) against visiting Connecticut.
A handoff to the fullback would be a fitting reward for Sharga, who has led the way through the hole for tailback Jahad Thomas all season. The only thing that has stood in the way of Sharga being a two-way starter an All-American linebacker named Tyler Matakevich, but there can be no doubt that Sharga already has played a huge role in the team’s 9-2 record. When Matakevich takes his considerable talents to the NFL next year, Sharga will slide over into his “Mike” linebacker position and the Owls probably will not suffer a significant drop off.
While no one plays 60 minutes anymore, Sharga is a throwback in that he starts on offense at the fullback position and is a backup linebacker on defense. In a 31-12 win over then No. 23 Memphis last week, Sharga played 20 plays on offense, 15 plays on defense and five on special teams and that’s just not done in big-time college football anymore.
Matakevich is one of the three finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player. Bednarik, like Matakevich, played his home college football games in Philadelphia but, unlike Matakevich, was the last of the 60-minute men. Sharga isn’t a 60-minute guy, but he’s getting there.
Sharga injured his ACL his senior year of high school, ended up at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan, put some outstanding film together and decided to walk-on at Temple last year. In spring ball this season, he made plays all over the field and his teammates voted him a single-digit number (4) awarded to the nine toughest players on the Temple team.
If he gets the ball on Saturday and runs far with it, no one will be surprised because of how far he’s run to get to this point.