The True Legends

threelegends

Three TU legends: Sheldon Morris, Willard Cooper and Anthony Gordon (Bruce’s players).

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Geoff Collins gives a well-deserved shout-out to a true Temple football legend, administrative assistant Nadia Harvin.

Nadia’s office has pre-dated the E-O and she goes way back to Bruce Arians, even though she must’ve made a deal with the devil (like Dorian Gray) because she doesn’t look a day over 26. She survived coaching changes through Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson, Bobby Wallace, Al Golden and Matt Rhule.

That’s saying something since new coaches like to bring in their own people.

 

Her hubby, Allen, was

conjar

Steve Conjar (left), Wayne Hardin’s greatest linebacker

a great running back for the University of Cincinnati but we will forgive him for that because he’s been Temple all (or most) of the way since.

(I pointed out to Allen on Cherry and White Day that Temple holds a significant lead in the all-time series against Cincinnati and he said, “Not when I was there.”  I will have to look that up but I will take him at his word.)

Still, Collins would do well to sit down with Nadia and discuss the term legends from what I’ve been hearing from Temple guys who played back in the day.

Collins throws the term “legends” around like Frisbees, including recent guys like P.J. Walker, Haason Reddick, Tyler Matakevich but, to me, the “true” Temple legends are the guys (and girls, like Nadia) who have withstood the test of time like Steve Conjar and Paul Palmer.

When Matt Rhule took the head coaching job at Temple, I shot off an email congratulating him for getting the job.

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More of coach Hardin’s guys, including Phil Prohaska and Mark Bresani (Cherry and White rear).

Matt immediately emailed back and asked for my phone number. What followed was a cordial 35-minute phone call, where he picked my brain for names of guys who played at Temple, specifically back when he played at Penn State. He wanted to welcome them back into the fold.

When I casually mentioned that former head coach Bruce Arians was still close to his players and that I had Bruce’s personal cell phone number, Matt asked me for it. Since one of the players was the guy who gave it to me, I told Matt that I had to ask his permission.

I did, player said yes, and Matt thanked the player and his teammates by saying that the program wanted to welcome them. Matt got the lowdown from Bruce, then Matt developed a tight relationship with coach Wayne Hardin where he got to know the players of that era.  Rhule went the extra mile, really few miles, to embrace those guys and make sure his players honored those who came before them.

There has been a slight difference, though, in the Collins’ approach and it definitely needs to be tweaked. While Collins did stop by at the Cherry and White tailgates of the older guys, I don’t get the vibe that he knows the older alums like he does the younger ones.

Neither do many of those guys.

While he knows all of the recent guys, he really has not reached out in the same way to some of the other guys.

“He acts,” one of them said to me, “like nothing happened at Temple football before Al Golden. This program did great things before Golden, like Heisman Trophy runnerups and finishing in the Top 20. With all due respect, none of the recent guys came close to that.”

That needs to change.

On a recent day devoted to high school coaches, Collins was introduced to a very special guy and was given his name.

“Coach, where do you coach?” Collins asked.

“Over at Haddon Heights in New Jersey,” the man said.

“It’s great seeing you. Thanks for coming.”

The man walked away, shaking his head.

That man, unbeknownst to Collins, was in my humble opinion the greatest player in Temple football history and a guy who should have won the 1986 Heisman Trophy.

His name was, and is, Paul Palmer. To me, that was a little like Nick Saban arriving at Alabama, meeting Joe Namath, and asking him which high school he coaches.

That introduction needs to be redone and guys like Conjar and Palmer deserve their place at the top of the Temple legend list and placed in front of a row of the more recent guys. These guys played at Temple through a lot of thick days remained loyal through a lot of thin ones afterward. For that, they deserve special thanks from the program, specifically its current CEO.

A phone call to Matt Rhule would set him on the proper path, as would a talk with Nadia.

Monday: Wandering Eye

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21 thoughts on “The True Legends

  1. Mike, great column and thanks for the memories.

    • Thanks, Phil. I had to write it because I ran into two alumni player groups at C and W who tailgate separately and both of those groups independently brought up this concern about coach Collins. When that happens, you know there’s a problem. However, to be fair to coach Collins, I have a feeling he’s trying to reach out but doesn’t quite know how. Rhule did. To me, it’s all about beating ND. If he does that, and pummels Villanova, away we go.

  2. Being at Temple since 1963 and part of the Football Program since 1964 I enjoy your comments. Reading and knowing the job Nadia does and to be recognized in SI was just great. Please continue your assessments because they are usually very accurate. Looking forward to being on the field with our new coach.

  3. CC should have someone at his side at these sort of functions to make the introductions and point out notable individuals (e.g. Heisman Trophy runner-up). That sort of thing is done in business all the time. You bring your CEO to a client visit or industry convention, you’re expected to stay by his side to avoid awkward introductions or unintended slights. Like you suggested above, he needs to learn to do these things a little better. CC certainly seems to be just as personable as his predecessors. I don’t know any of the legend guys mentioned above. But my wife and I met a few of the ex-players on a city tour on Nashville. Great group of guys. I’m sure that’s pretty much a constant with ex TUFB players. And if asked, any number of those guys would help him in this area.

  4. Made it into two pictures.

    • Somebody else I recognize was in two photos, ironically distracted in both. His son, though, was smiling and aware in both shots. 🙂

      • Was distracted in both photos. Oh well. My son though was not distracted. Great piece Mike. I think the weather on Cherry and White was a distraction and might explain why coach did not make the rounds.. Coach did make himself available two weeks before Cherry and White at the alumni scrimmage.

      • Unfortunately, I was so soaked by the rain I had to leave early. Was hoping Geoff would do what Matt did his first year–make the rounds a couple of hours before the game and right after–but did not get to see the after part. I was told he stopped by Joe Greenwood’s tailgate afterward and shook some hands and introduced himself (which he didn’t need to do), which is a good start.

  5. Joe Geise and Doug Hayes, two starters and very good players also are in the second photo taken last season at PSU..

  6. Another crazy idea. Why doesn’t Temple honor the team from that magical 1990 season sometime this year at halftime. The team went 7-4 and had wins against Wisconsin, Pittsburgh. BC, Syracuse & Virginia Tech. Have Collins shake the hands of great players like Matt Baker, Scott McNair, Leslie Sheppard, Conrad Swanson

  7. Keita Crespina was on that 1990 Team, he happens to coach at a pretty good school just down the street from TU.

  8. He really blew off Paul Palmer? Has he rejected attempts by supporters of the program to bring him up to speed? Maybe Harry Mays can get his ear and bring him along. Or Todd Bowles? He may have heard of him perhaps.

    • Wasn’t a matter of blowing him off as much as it was not knowing who he was. To us, Paul is as recognizable as Joe Namath is to Alabama fans. Collins thought he was just another high school coach from Jersey attending high school coaches day. Someone from Temple dropped the ball. They should have said, “Geoff, this is one of our legends and our play-by-play guy.”

    • err, make that our color analyst. our play-by-play guy is Harry Donahue.

  9. You are right: someone at the school really dropped the ball. Boo-boo, and the Harrys should have been there at his intro press conference. With all the coaching changes over the last two decades, one would think there’s a laminated sheet in the AD’s office on the wall with the items necessary for getting the new coach up and running. Mike, maybe you need to be that person who is called in to get new coaches up to speed.

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