Temple football coach Rod Carey keeps ‘foundational’ single-digit tradition

The tradition has endured through the team’s coaching changes since 2013.

Temple University football coach Rod Carey watches his team at Geasey Field on Aug. 13, 2019. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Four coaches, nine seasons and nine digits.

Single-digit TUFF — a tradition introduced a decade ago — will continue this season under coach Rod Carey.

“It’s a part of the fabric of who we are,” Carey said on Aug. 20. “I don’t think when you go through transitions that you come in and try to change a foundational piece. That’d be like trying to change ‘Temple TUFF.’”

Players who are the toughest and most dedicated are awarded single-digit jersey numbers — a concept introduced by former coach Al Golden in 2009. 

After he left in 2010, the tradition was briefly set aside during former coach Steve Addazio’s tenure, but was revived in 2013. It has continued through the tenures of Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins and now Carey.

On Aug. 17, graduate offensive lineman Jovahn Fair was elected as a single-digit player by his teammates. Fair said it was a “great feeling” to follow in the footsteps of other players honored through the tradition, which he hopes stays with the team “forever.”

“It’s a part of our foundation, it’s why we are who we are,” Fair said. “We have a brotherhood and a great culture, and that’s a strong part of it.”

The NCAA requires offensive linemen to wear jersey numbers between 50 and 79. Fair will wear number 70 on the field this season, as he has since 2015. Fair said the team might create a sticker or patch for him to wear the symbolic number.

Redshirt-junior wide receiver Branden Mack, senior wide receiver Isaiah Wright, graduate linebacker Chapelle Russell, senior linebacker Shaun Bradley and graduate offensive lineman Matt Hennessy were named single-digit players at the beginning of preseason camp on Aug. 2. Russell, Bradley and Hennessy are returning single-digit players, first honored in 2018. 

On Aug. 24, the final three single-digit players were revealed. Redshirt-junior defensive tackle Daniel Archibong will wear number six, senior wide receiver Randle Jones will wear seven and redshirt-junior linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley will wear eight. 

“When I got mine, everybody was all happy for me,” Bradley said on Aug. 23. “The older single-digits were there and they were like, ‘Welcome to the single-digits. So now I look at it the same way. Seeing someone get a single digit, I’m like ‘Bro, welcome. Congrats. It’s a big thing, it’s a big honor to have here. You represent the university well.’”

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