Transferring from Colorado State last spring, Temple safety Tywan Francis was expected to be inserted in the starting lineup this season while playing a role in the Owls’ secondary.
In his first game in the Cherry and White, Francis donned a single-digit jersey and demonstrated his quick and explosive level of play in Temple’s 24-21 win against Akron Saturday.
Francis recorded five tackles in his debut and put the game on ice with an interception off Akron quarterback DJ Irons with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Though it was a tough play, Francis credited the coaching staff for putting him in position.
“Coach made a great call going man-free,” Francis said. “I was in man coverage doing my role, the quarterback threw the ball, and I made a play.”
Francis proved he was a key player with his number four jersey: an honorary single digit. Every year, the team follows its tradition of picking players who best represent the Temple program — both on and off the field — to wear a jersey with a single-digit number.
Francis entered the program this offseason, making a significant impact on his teammates. Linebacker and single-digit Yvandy Rigby raved about Francis’ effort and improvement since the spring and was proud that Francis was able to achieve the honor.
“He comes in every day with the same mentality,” Rigby said. “He works hard and motivates guys. He shows what a single digit embodies.”
Francis put his hard work on display at Lincoln Financial Field. He and Rigby anchored a stifling defensive unit that didn’t give up any points in the second half against Akron, allowing just 41 yards in the half and adding two sacks in the victory. The Zips did not even cross the 50-yard line into Temple’s half of the field in the second half.
Alongisde Francis, linebacker Tra Thomas was also nominated this week as one of the first two honorary single digits of the season.
Typically, teammates choose single digits to signify the leaders of the locker room. Many are the better-performing players on the roster, like cornerback Jalen McMurray and quarterback E.J. Warner. Off the field, single digits are some of the most impactful leaders on the team, demonstrating the “Temple TUFF” mantra.
“When I know the energy is down, that’s when I know I need to step up,” said single-digit running back Edward Saydee. “That’s when the single digits show their face and bring up the energy.”
However, this season, Temple head coach Stan Drayton brought back a former tradition ahead of Saturday’s matchup. In addition to the eight active single digits already assigned, the jersey numbers four and nine will be worn by different players chosen each week by Drayton based on their performance in practice and leadership qualities.
Having the honorary single digits could create competition in the locker room, Drayton said. This tradition gives those players who aren’t already single digits a chance to be highlighted despite not being voted as a permanent single digit in the offseason.
“There’s more that can earn that, and that’s what excites me about this team,” Drayton said. “Kind of created a competition and an edge to us as we prepare for the week.”
Francis’ toughness and leadership throughout this week earned him the honorary single digit, Drayton said.
Wearing number four this week was important to Francis, especially in his first game as an Owl. He felt the award meant his coaches and peers recognized the work he had been putting in, which encouraged him to push himself on the field.
“The single digit was very, very big for me,” Francis said. “Single digits mean so much to the culture and to the football family. It was an honor for me to wear it tonight. I just had to go out there and do what I planned on doing throughout the week. I just had to go out there and get the job done.”