The True Legends

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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

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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

Paying Temple Forward

 

Letter from Bruce Arians I found two days ago.

Letter from Bruce Arians I found two days ago.

When you make two or three moves like I have, you have a tendency to throw a lot of things into a box and leave them there.

The thought occurred to me that the house I have is slightly too large I and might like to downsize, like my friend, Steve Conjar, whose birthday is today, did so the first step in this long process is to clear out some of the boxes, which necessitated saying goodbye to a lot of good things that I had been holding onto a bit too long.

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Bruce wearing best TU cap ever.

One thing where I won’t comprise is my Temple football stuff. A good doctor from South Carolina, Jim, once send me a lot of great Temple football memorabilia and I put that away in a drawer with a plan to take photos of it and put it on here eventually and leave it in cyberspace long after I am gone (which hopefully will not be soon).

A couple of days ago, though, I came across a bit of Temple football memorabilia I thought I might have tossed and it was like seeing an old friend again after all these years. It was a letter I received from Bruce Arians, who was then the Temple head coach.

Found the above photo accompanying this post in my basement. At the time, I  working on a story about Central Bucks West players going to college late in the recruiting process and asked  then head coach Mike Pettine Sr. where Dick Beck was going to school. “Either West Chester or Towson,” Mike said. My response was a loud: “WHATTTTT???” and then told Mike, “that ain’t happening.” Put Bruce on Beck and the rest was history for the sole captain of the 1990 (7-4) Owls.

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Beck was without a doubt the best pulling guard I have ever seen playing high school ball, but just a little undersized for most D-1A schools. Sent a letter to Bruce, who asked for Dick’s film, and Bruce was sold on Dick’s film and offered him a scholarship.

Bruce became a two-time (probably should have won it three times) NFL Coach of the Year and Dick Beck became a state champion head coach at North Penn after being the only captain of the 1990 (7-4) Owls, who should have gone to a bowl game.

Beck paid Temple forward with kicker Brandon McManus, and I have no doubt Brandon one day will pay Temple forward somehow, someway.

It is sometimes amazing the ancillary benefits that spring cleaning can bring.

Tuesday: The Turner Field Solution

Enjoy The View

Be there or be square.

One of those morning shows that targets largely a women’s audience has a perfect slogan that should apply to particularly this Temple football season: “Take a little time to enjoy the view.”

Kyle Friend blew a hole open here that 3 guys could have followed for a TD

Kyle Friend blew a hole open here that 3 guys could have followed for a TD

Even if it was a little wet and foggy last night in a very satisfying 37-3 win at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (the guy on Camera No. 5 really needed a towel or a shirt or something to clean off his location), a pretty spectacular view is starting to come into focus. After surviving a stumble last week at UMass, the Owls now have a blueprint of how to win out. They now have to take care of business against a Tulane team for Homecoming, a UCF team that lost to Furman but is always dangerous and an ECU team that has revenge on their mind and a huge home field advantage.

Still, winning those three games, one at a time, is doable if the Owls keep doing what they did against Charlotte: Play good defense and special teams, run the ball on offense, and pick their spots in the play action passing game.

It’s not a particularly flashy style of winning, but any kind of winning is a beautiful sight.

The view last night included:

  • Nick Sharga playing fullback, seeking out and destroying a linebacker that allowed Jahad Thomas to get an eight-yard gain and then, later, subbing for Tyler Matakevich at linebacker, making a Tyler Matakevich play to stop Khalil Phillips at the line of scrimmage. Haven’t seen that kind of two-way impact since first-round NFL draft choice John Rienstra led the way for a Todd McNair touchdown against BYU and then came in on goal-line defense and sacked Robbie Bosco.
  • The P.J. Walker to Robby Anderson connection being revived on a pair of touchdown passes. That was good to see. It was evident on a nice hookup in Cincy, but this is the first time it worked for multiple TDs. Love for P.J. to go up top and hit Robby in stride. That hasn’t happened yet, but will.
  • Probably the greatest Bruce Arians’ interview on the CBS Sports Network ever ended with a “go Owls.” Great to see a nice photo of Matt Rhule with Bruce. True story: The day after Matt was hired as Temple head coach, I casually mentioned to Matt that I had Bruce’s cell number. He asked for it and I gave it to him. (That’s for all of you people who think I hate Matt Rhule; I don’t.) I hope Matt and Bruce become as good friends as Matt and coach Hardin are. I also hope Temple University can pull up that interview and post it online. Without a doubt, Matt and Bruce are the two nicest guys to ever become head coach at Temple University.
  • The Temple defense not breaking, even though we could do without the bending part.
  • Something tells me all of those February practices in the snow are paying off. Temple does not seem fazed by inclement weather. Temple Sunshine.
  • Nate L. Smith making a real impact on the special teams, although not in the punt returning role he might be better-suited for. He showed he still has a nose for the end zone, though.
  • This team played like it didn’t want Charlotte to take them down to the wire and that’s the kind of ferocity they need to play with going forward.

The Owls are now 4-0 for the first time since 1974 with a Homecoming Game against Tulane coming up in a week (noon start). They deserve a crowd of 40,000 or more and any fan who ventures down to the stadium is going to get a great view of a good football team on a mission.

Take a little time out of your schedule to enjoy it.

….. and now a few words from the bad guys ….

Arians’ Reaction to Win Was Classy

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When Bruce Arians led the Arizona Cardinals to a late-season upset of the Seattle Seahawks two years ago, it was the final loss of the season for the Seahawks on the way to winning the Super Bowl. The question for Arians then was a natural one as someone in the press room asked him if that was his biggest win as a head coach. Arians paused for a second and said, no, his biggest win as a head coach came at Temple when the Owls broke a 39-year losing streak to Pittsburgh in the 1984 season.

So, of all the congratulatory messages pouring into third-year Temple head coach Matt Rhule after a 27-10 upset of Penn State on Saturday, the one posted by Arians on his twitter page was priceless:

Rhule had one-upped Arians in the sense that he broke a longer streak over another in-state rival in Penn State (after a 74-year drought), so the two men have been in the same shoes at the same place. No one knew more what a win over Penn State could do for the Temple program than Arians, who said the first question asked of him at his first Temple press conference was, “Why does Temple even play football?” Like the presser after the Seattle game two years ago, Arians paused before a thoughtful response: “To beat Penn State.” Arians came close twice, losing to nationally-ranked Nittany Lions’ teams, 23-18, in 1983 and 27-25 to what would become an 11-1 PSU team in 1984, but never quite got over the hump.

Now that Rhule did, Arians used both twitter and the phone to express his satisfaction with the result. Rhule took the call and said, “Yes sir, thank you sir.” to a guy who was a young coach at Temple once, too. Rhule said he did not know what else to say to the NFL coach of the year. Then Rhule went out to the parking lot at Lincoln Financial Field and presented the game ball to another former Temple coach, College Football Hall of Fame member Wayne Hardin, who came close a few times against Penn State but, like Arians, could not get over the hump.

In the fraternity of college coaches, and the circle of life, all three coaches will now share a pretty neat memory forever because only those three fully understand the magnitude of the moment.

Tomorrow: Still Not Focusing on Cincinnati (but we are sure the team is)

Temple Having a NFL Head Coach Cannot Be Minimized

Bruce Arians' players showing former teammate Todd Bowles some love.

Bruce Arians’ players showing former teammate Todd Bowles some love.

When the Bruce Arians’ crew made the trip to Florham Park over the weekend for the first full day of New York Jets’ training camp, the contingent of ex-Temple players were treated like the champions they were.

The fact that Temple has a head coach in the NFL, Todd Bowles, cannot be minimized. Hopefully, Matt Rhule can use it as a recruiting tool. He already has the support of Arians’ players, guys like Sheldon Morris, Kevin Jones, Joe Greenwood and Paul Palmer and hopefully that kind of networking will work in Temple’s favor over the next few years.

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No, Arians’ players did not win the Big East—there wasn’t even a Big East back then—but they helped put Temple on the national football map by having two winning seasons in three years against two schedules that were ranked No. 10 in the country.

Think about that for a moment. Back then, Temple played a schedule equal or superior to the current powers the SEC, PAC-10,and Big 10 and more than held its own. It did so practicing on a rock-strewn field (now the Student Pavilion) when Geasey Field was taken over by the lacrosse or field hockey teams of the day. The weight room was located next to a bowling alley in the basement of McGonigle Hall.

When Arians was asked if beating the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks was the biggest win of his career–he was the last team to beat them before they won the 2014 Super Bowl–he stopped the press conference by saying no. “My biggest win was when I was at Temple, beating Pitt for the first time in 39 years,” Arians said.

Through it all, they beat Pitt three out of five years, beat West Virginia, blew out a Virginia Tech team that won 10 games and a Toledo team that was 9-2-1. They had a Heisman Trophy runner-up in Palmer, who should have been a Heisman Trophy winner. They went down to East Carolina and shut out the Pirates, 17-0. Even in those days, places like Pitt, West Virginia and Virginia Tech had multi-million dollar dedicated practice facilities but Temple did more with less.

It had to.

Arians built his teams around a great running game with a great blocking fullback and hopefully Rhule can take something from that formula, which has been the way Temple has played football for a long time. Arians had an eye for good quarterbacks, like Lee Saltz, Tim Riordan and Matty Baker.

The guys who played for him have always been “tight as a fist” and it was good to see them enjoying and supporting their former teammate the other day.