When Temple players ran to the center of Chodoff Field after Tuesday’s practice and took a knee, they were greeted by Dick Vermeil.
As Vermeil yelled, “hard work is not a punishment, hard work is your ally,” players repeated those exact words back to the former Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, and St. Louis Rams coach.
“It was amazing, a super bowl winning coach,” senior linebacker Avery Williams said. “He was talking about how when you are coming off the field, your body hurts, you got a headache and all that hard work is not your enemy, it’s your friend. When you take that and put that on the field, you realize how great you are just because of all that hard work you put in, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Less than two weeks before the Owls’ season kicks off against Army at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 2, coach Matt Rhule is seeing a lack of toughness in his team.
With the questions “Do you hustle?,” and “Do you care about the Owls?” written on a white chalkboard with red marker behind Rhule in the wide receivers video room, he talked about being tough.
“We are as deep a team as we have had, [but I’m] not sure if we are as tough as a team we have had,” Rhule said. “It plays with their development, it plays with their attitude, it plays with the quarterback and we have to continue and try to get better.”
A week ago, Rhule kicked the first-team offense out of practice, stating the team did not earn the privilege to practice. After losing Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis, Robby Anderson, Kyle Friend and Tavon Young to the NFL, Rhule is seeking leadership amongst the team.
The Owls finished 10-4 last season while winning the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. After the Owls ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 36 years last season, the current group of seniors are trying to teach by example.
“At first, me and [redshirt-senior offensive lineman Brendan McGowan], guys who have played, we had to put the anchor down ‘ look guys, Kyle isn’t here,’” senior offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said. “We took a leadership mentality and learned everything from Kyle, so we are basically just mini Kyle’s. “
For the first time in his four years, senior linebacker Avery Williams will not play alongside current Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker, Tyler Matakevich.
Matakevich led Temple last season with 138 total tackles, including 77 solo tackles. Williams, who finished with 49 tackles said Matakevich will be missed, but expressed confidence in the Owls’ current group of linebackers led by Williams, senior Stephaun Marshall and senior Jarred Alwan.
“We all have so much chemistry,” Williams said. “For the past four years, it’s always been me Alwan, Steph and Tyler. Now it is me, Alwan and Steph, we just have to keep that going,”
Redshirt-freshman linebacker Chapelle Russell is grabbing the attention of his teammates. With nine linebackers competing for three starting spots, Russell is showing his teammates and coach he is willing to compete.
“Chapelle Russell has infinite, infinite talent,” Rhule said. “He has real upside, it is just going to be if he does it or not. Some days he is out there and makes every tackle and some days his shoulders are bothering him and coach Rhule told him he couldn’t wear socks.”