Temple University football had 16 potential NFL prospects participate in Pro Day on March 23. Each participant was looking for an opportunity to grab NFL scouts’ attention prior to the draft on April 28.
With 13 prospects being former Owls, some haven’t been at Temple’s facility since former head coach Rod Carey was let go on Nov. 29, 2021. While preparing for Temple’s Pro Day, players had the chance to rekindle relationships with former teammates and meet a brand new staff.
“Once I got back to the facility it felt like I was one of the guys again,” said former center C.J Perez.
Perez spent two seasons with the Owls under center. He transferred from Northern Illinois and started in 17 consecutive games during his career. When he met Drayton in the facility, he already knew Perez’s name, he said.
Perez transferred to Temple to play under Carey, because he was the former head coach at Northern Illinois and brought his entire staff with him to North Broad. There weren’t any negative feelings toward the Carey era and his previous relationship with the staff, he said.
“It was really nice that I wasn’t just another face,” Perez said. “[Drayton] really made it clear the foundation we laid, we’re a part of that foundation, players from the past, that’s a big thing.”
Drayton told Perez and other players that Edberg-Olson Hall and the STAR Complex are open for all former Owls to come back and train, Perez said.
When former safety Amir Tyler arrived at the facility, he sat in Drayton’s office for more than two hours discussing his time in the program and what the current team could work on, Tyler said.
Tyler was a single digit and spent six seasons with the program. He led the Owls with 49 tackles last season. He spent most of his college career on special teams, until transitioning to the safety position in the 2019-20 season.
During Pro Day, current players hyped each other up on the sidelines as the former Owls benched pressed, took part in vertical jumps and ran the 40-yard dash.
Former linebacker William Kwenkeu, who finished with 182 total tackles and seven sacks in his career, was a single digit and spent six seasons in Temple’s program. Once he saw his former teammates at the facility all of his nerves disappeared, he said.
Besides catching up with the current players, Tyler thought seeing guys on Pro Day, who transferred out, was an opportunity for them to represent Temple again, like former quarterback Anthony Russo from Michigan State University and Aaron Adu from Western Illinois University, he said.
“It was amazing I came in with a lot of these guys,” Tyler added. “A lot of people who’ve been here, you don’t get that bond or the relationship you had with different people, a lot of people go to different schools and you might not end up seeing them again.”
Tyler experienced four coach changes during his career: Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins, Manny Diaz and Carey. He also saw a number of guys leave Temple’s program for the transfer portal during those coach changes. After the 2020-21 season when Temple went 1-6 in the American Athletic Conference, 13 players transferred out, including Russo and Adu.
“It’s great to be back here,” Russo said. “Spent four and half years here, life long friendships with guys on this team. Being back here in North Philly, there is nothing like it.”
Drayton has emphasized his open-door policy to former teammates, and having guys, who were drafted to the NFL, speak to the current team about work ethic.
While he’s led eight of 15 spring practices, a number of former Owls in the NFL have come to Edberg-Olson Hall to watch, including Shaun Bradley, a Philadelphia Eagle, Chapelle Russell, a Jacksonville Jaguar and Matt Hennessy, an Atlanta Falcon.
On Pro Day Drayton tweeted out: “What I love about meeting our former Temple made football players is the genuine love they have for each other. That’s what make this place special. Amazing how love develops toughness.”
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