N.Y. Jets draft Temple tackle

Temple offensive tackle Dave Yovanovits didn’t know what to think during the 2003 NFL Draft. He didn’t know if he would get drafted, or get an invitation from a team as rookie free agent if

Temple offensive tackle Dave Yovanovits didn’t know what to think during the 2003 NFL Draft.

He didn’t know if he would get drafted, or get an invitation from a team as rookie free agent if he didn’t get picked.

And even if he were to be selected, he wondered who would take him.

Before the time the seventh and final round of the draft began, he said the New England Patriots were the first team to inquire about him.

Earlier that day the Patriots selected his teammate, Dan Klecko, in the fourth round, so there appeared the possibility they might end up together again.

But when all was said and done, the New York Jets, a division rival of the Patriots, chose Yovanovits as the 237th overall selection.

For Yovanovits, the whole experience was exceptional.

“Pure joy,” he said.

“I was smiling and laughing all day. I haven’t been overcome by joy like that in a long time.”

Yovanovits and Klecko were the only two Temple players selected in the two-day long affair, however, a few other Owls signed on as rookie free-agents with other teams; cornerback Terrance Leftwich signed with the Miami Dolphins and safety Jamal Wallace was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles.

According to Yovanovits, at one point he thought that he might have to sign with a team as a rookie free-agent as well, but getting picked in the last round erased any doubts.

“To get drafted, it’s like a little icing on the cake,” Yovanovits said.

“I was on the phone all day with family and friends congratulating me. Even some old teammates from high school got in touch with me.”

Since coming to Temple from Stanhope, N.J., Yovanovits has been a model player of consistency and durability.

Arriving at Temple weighing a mere 240 pounds his freshman year, he has displayed an inexorable work ethic on the field and in the weight room.

Now he stands at 6-foot-3, and weighs a lusty 300 pounds, while still maintaining his rigorous training regimen.

In his junior year, Yovanovits was selected by the coaching staff for the John Rienstra Award for off-season conditioning excellence.

In his final two seasons he earned the Top Hog Award, given to the top offensive lineman on the squad.

When the football season concluded, Yovanovits, who is an environmental engineering major, chose to cut down his class work in turn for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the NFL.

Although a solid student in the classroom (he was named to the Dean’s List in spring of 2001), he figured that school would always be there, so he dedicated himself to his off-season conditioning.

Yovanovits’ schedule consists of balancing his time between meals and training.

He awakes at 9 a.m., eats breakfast and gives himself two hours before running for an hour.

He then eats lunch by 1 p.m., followed by weight training at 3 p.m. for a couple of hours.

Even since being drafted, his focus has not ebbed.

“I think he brings toughness and durability, no question about it,” said Temple coach Bobby Wallace about Yovanovits’ intangibles.

“He has a great work ethic and is a very intelligent player.”

Playing in 45 career games and starting 43, Yovanovits was also the main reason running back Tanardo Sharps enjoyed his most productive season, rushing for 1287 yards.

Despite the less than formidable status the Temple football program garners, the experience playing against the Big East conference has proved Yovanovits worthy of a shot with the Jets

As the ecstasy of getting drafted wanes, Yovanovits’ focus will turn to rookie mini-camp with his new team this week.

“I’m excited, but very nervous. It’s all going to be new to me,” Yovanovits said.

Wallace added, “We’ve had players make it every year, and to see them move onto to the pros, you’re just happy for them.”

Jason Haslam can be reached at jasonhaslam@yahoo.com.

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