Owls: Your town, your team
(Story appeared on op-ed page of The Daily News Nov. 2, 2007)
IF Horatio Alger were still around, he'd love writing about Temple football. Is there anything more rags-to-riches than a three-game winning streak after 0-12 and 1-11 seasons?
"We're America's Team," ex-coach Wayne Hardin once said. "You know, 'Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor. ' "
America's Team. Temple is indeed that more than the Dallas Cowboys. America likes a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story. Dallas never was that. Temple is.
It certainly is Philadelphia's team, with many more Philadelphians playing for the Owls than for the NFL team that plays in the same stadium.
The starting tailback? From North Catholic. Starting linebackers? Bishop McDevitt and Germantown. One starting cornerback for the opening game is from Gratz. (He's hurt. ) The current starting quarterback? Suburban Avon Grove. The rest of the roster is almost entirely from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
That can't be said of the Eagles. The one Bird who played in college here, Brian Westbrook, is from the Washington area. Everyone else is a carpetbagger.
If Temple doesn't deserve America's support, then it certainly deserves Philadelphia's.
The city's football fans should come over to the other side and support a team that plays hard-nosed, aggressive football - a group of kids who more represent them in reality than the overpaid, spoiled and passive pros who frequently don't.
The Temple Owls are an exciting team playing an exciting brand of football, much like Hardin's teams did in the 1970s.
If you went to the last Temple game, you saw a heartstopping throw-back pass from wide receiver Bruce Francis to quarterback Adam DiMichele that went for a near-touchdown and a long bomb from backup quarterback Vaughn Charlton to Francis that did go for score.
You also saw a third-straight win from the hometown team.
At the time Hardin made his remarks about Temple being America's Team, he was specificially talking about Temple football recruiting.
Under Hardin, Temple got a lot of players who were hungry to prove themselves to the higher-profile schools who overlooked them in the recruiting process. It got a lot of players tired of people telling them they were an inch too small or a step too slow. It got players who were poor in numbers of scholarship offers, but rich in areas like reputation and character.
Hungry, tired, poor.
The formula worked before.
And now it's working again.
The current Owls are an interesting mix, but this group reminds me more of Hardin's era than any team since because of the character of the players.
This group, like Hardin's, have so many players who were captains of their high school teams. Eighteen members of the 1-2 depth chart were captains of teams that won their high school championship. And most were large schools in high-profile environments and most of those players excelled under pressure.
It was a proven recruiting template 30 years ago - and it's proven to be the same under coach Al Golden.
Golden has a bunch of leaders, captains, who play aggressive, not passive, football.
"People in Philadelphia will be proud of this team once it starts to develop because it's tough, it competes and we have fun out there," Golden said.
You won't be able to get into the Penn State game on Nov. 10 because it's sold out, but check it out, Eagles fans, on Nov. 17 against Kent State. *
Mike Gibson is editor and publisher of Temple Football Forever (http://templefootballforever.blogspot.com), a Temple football blog. E-mail