As Temple University football begins its 2021 season, running back coach Gabe Infante is working to foster a sense of community among the team, something he felt was missing last season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“I saw COVID strain a lot of relationships, and it became very difficult to even spend time with people you love,” he said. “One of the critical aspects to football is building family, building the relationships with the guys you’re going into competition with.”
After being named recruiting coordinator in June, Infante has focused on building the best recruiting department in Temple’s history and believes a family dynamic will be a huge part of this process, he said.
Infante wants to be efficient, intentional and thorough in his recruiting efforts, especially when recruiting players from local high schools, he added.
“I’m grateful because I think it’s such an important job to help direct our staff and our program in trying to identify and attract a Temple football player,” Infante said. “It’s very exciting for me to be able to spearhead that and oversee that and be able to help our program.”
Infante graduated from New York Law School in 1999 and worked as a licensed attorney in New Jersey for several years before transitioning to coaching full time. The decision to leave law came after he was offered a position that wanted him to give up coaching.
Infante began his coaching career at the high-school level, serving as the defensive coordinator at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey, for two years before becoming the head coach at Paramus Catholic High in Paramus, New Jersey.
He then became the head coach at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in North Philadelphia in 2010, a position he held until 2018. He had a 91-23 record and four PIAA state championships during his nine seasons with the Hawks.
Infante networks with players on social media as part of his recruiting process through the team’s recruiting page on Twitter. Besides posting daily videos of the team’s practices, Infante showcases the team’s culture on the account, like by posting videos of the coaches speaking with players and the players talking about their funniest teammates.
The recruiting department especially highlighted the Owls’ trip to the Bronx in New York City for training camp on social media, posting videos about the off-the-field activities the team participated in.
In one video, the Owls visited the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, and Infante spoke about the importance of the team being there.
“A lot of our players weren’t even born at that time, so I think the opportunity as a team to experience and witness the courage and heroism of so many people on that day I think was a good experience for us to have as a team and as a family,” Infante said in the video.
Freshman running back Trey Blair worked closely with Infante after switching positions from safety, he said.
“Right after I found out I was moving to running back I sat down with coach for probably an hour and we just talked and we didn’t say anything about football,” Blair said. “That meant a lot to me because he really took the time to get to know me as a person rather than a player.”
Blair believes Infante’s best quality is his ability to develop a relationship with each player on the team, not just offer them film reviews, he added.
Redshirt freshman running back Edward Saydee thinks Infante is one of the best coaches he’s had, and teaches the team values about becoming better people, he said.
“When we’re learning from him it’s not complicated,” Saydee said. He makes it as easy as possible for us to understand, that’s one thing I respect about him and he’s a trustworthy guy. Whatever he says, he means it and he doesn’t go against his word.”
Head coach Rod Carey respects how Infante has handled the transition from coaching high school teams to coaching at Temple, he said.
“While on the outside that may not seem like a big transition, on the inside that’s a steep learning curve,” Carey said.
Carey believes the recruiting department will benefit from Infante’s local ties to the community, he said.
“I’m hoping that our program has a successful 2021 season and that we can continue to build on the success that the program has had in the past,” Infante said.