As the Owls’ posted a 6-6 mark last year, Robby Anderson watched.
After being dismissed from the university for academic reasons following the 2013 season, Anderson could do nothing but sit on a couch in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and watch his former teammates play on without him in 2014.
“It was rough,” Anderson said. “I used to be sad sometimes because I was in my mother’s house and I knew I could have been out there helping them. I was happy to see them out there doing good. I was their number one fan, but it was tough.”
Anderson spent last year taking classes at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, and earned his associate’s degree as he attempted to regain academic eligibility.
This summer, the redshirt-senior wide receiver received three As while taking classes on campus in an effort to get back onto the football field.
It was a difficult process for the 22-year-old, but Anderson made his official return to the team last week.
“I can’t really put it into words,” Anderson said. “It’s really a dream come true … I honestly believed I would get back. Even when they told me I couldn’t come back, I used to tell my friends and my family ‘I’m going back to Temple’.”
In 2013, Anderson was Temple’s top receiving threat. After sitting out the first two games of that season due to academic issues, he built a good rapport with then-freshman quarterback P.J. Walker.
The chemistry between the two players led to 44 reception, 791 yards and nine touchdowns for Anderson in his redshirt-sophomore campaign.
Walker was the first teammate Anderson contacted after he found out he had an opportunity to rejoin the team.
“It made me feel real happy, just the fact that he was trying to come back,” Walker said. “A lot of guys would get out of school and be done. We saw that he really wanted to come back. He really wanted to be a part of the team, so why not? Why not bring him back?”
In Anderson’s absence last season, the Owls’ passing game suffered. The team’s air attack ranked 86th out of the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams at 200.7 yards per game.
With last year’s top wideout Jalen Fitzpatrick gone to graduation, Walker said Anderson brings a skill set that can help the passing game improve.
“He’s versatile,” Walker said of Anderson. “We can do a lot of different things with him. With his speed and his versatility. He’s able to catch the ball down the field, make the defenses back up. That’s something we need.
The 44 catches and 791 yards Anderson collected in 2013 came in his first full season as a wide receiver. A converted defensive back, Anderson said he might have left the team before he reached his full potential as a wideout.
“I feel like that season I was just getting my feet wet,” Anderson said. “Like I just started. I feel like some of that happened by accident. I look back, when I was home, I watched film like ‘dang. I could have did this and that.’ I missed out on opportunities, so now I missed a year and it just adds fuel to my fire and I feel like I’m a wiser player. I was more a student of the game not playing last year.”
Coach Matt Rhule welcomes back Anderson and the energy and talents he brings to the team.
“The greatest thing about Robby is just his competitiveness,” Rhule said. “He only knows one speed and that’s what you’re really looking for in a football player. He’s always had great ball skills, the ability to track the football and he’s obviously fast.”
The Owls have several young wide receivers on their roster this season. Twelve players at the position are either sophomores or freshman.
Playing with teammates that are three or four years younger than him, Anderson would like to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes he did.
“I’m 22 these guys are like 18 just coming out of high school,” Anderson said. “I know what they’re going through … I want to be a mentor and I want to help people in the long run.”