As redshirt-senior forward Steve Leonard hopped off the bench during pregame introductions, he looked over at Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, who was sitting courtside.
Leonard thought of what Mills, who met with the Owls prior to their 75-56 victory against Central Florida, said to the team before tip-off at the Liacouras Center.
“No matter what role you are on the team, if your name is called, then just go out there and make the most of it,’” Leonard said Mills told the Owls in his pregame speech.
Leonard did exactly that and took advantage of his opportunity to start on Senior Day. He hit Temple’s first two field goals, which were both 3-pointers to help Temple open with a 16-0 lead against the Knights.
“There was good energy from Jalen, and you know, I think his message was a good one,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “‘You deserve to be out there. You deserve to be playing college basketball, and take advantage of it.’ So I was impressed. …I appreciate him doing it. I think anything obviously these days that represents a world champion, you’re coming with a degree of credibility.”
Mills is coming off a Super Bowl LII victory against the New England Patriots on Feb. 4 in Minnesota. He had a team-high nine tackles and two pass deflections in the victory.
The Eagles’ fight song, “Fly, Eagles Fly,” played while Temple introduced Mills midway through the first half.
Mills didn’t only give a pregame speech and cheer for Temple courtside throughout the afternoon. During a media timeout, Mills shot T-shirts out of a cannon to fans in the stands, including the upper deck.
Despite being a Dallas native, Mills was pretty animated courtside cheering for the Owls.
With 14 minutes, 59 seconds left in the second half, freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis tossed an alley-oop to sophomore guard Quinton Rose from halfcourt to give the Owls a 43-28 lead. The finish by Rose brought Mills to his feet.
“I think he had a great talk to us before the game and he got us pretty hyped up,” senior forward Obi Enechionyia said. “It’s’ great to have someone who just won a championship in the room with us. I think he helped us today, definitely did.”
— Jalen Mills (@greengoblin) February 25, 2018