Temple University Head Football Coach Rod Carey is taking a different approach to the 2021 season.
For the first time in Carey’s three seasons as coach, he brought the team to SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx, New York City, for about two weeks of training camp in hopes of escaping distractions in Philadelphia and providing his players with a close-knit atmosphere.
The desire to make changes could stem from the Owls’ 1-6 record last season or the difficult circumstances the program faced due to COVID-19 procedures, which left the group with five games postponed and the inability to start their 2020 season until Oct. 10.
“Being away gives us a huge advantage,” Carey said. “It just takes everyone out of their element and gets us together alone.”
Being surrounded by teammates and coaches every single day, the team’s camaraderie is stronger than previous years, Carey said. Coaches used the environment to create off-the-field bonding experiences, like a practice on the beach and a trip to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan, New York City.
“A lot of our players weren’t even born at that time,” said Running Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Gabe Infante in a Temple Football Recruiting video. “I think the opportunity as a team to experience and witness the courage and heroism of so many people on that day, was a good experience for us to have as a team and as a family.”
The Temple TUFF mentality combines communication, dedication and fraternity among the players, regardless of position, age or ability. This motto stuck with the Owls this summer as the players have been expected to persevere, focus and play hard without the comfort of being on campus.
During training camp, the young players and upperclassmen embodied those qualities, Carey said.
“This entire experience has been really great for us,” said redshirt-junior linebacker Audley Isaacs. “I’m seeing a lot of guys engaging in conversations that we don’t usually have.”
The winning culture was further developed during the camp by seasoned players, like graduate wide receiver Randle Jones, graduate student safety Amir Tyler, graduate student linebacker William Kwenkeu and redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue.
Each of these players embody the leadership values expected of them through off-the-field conversations and have several seasons worth of wisdom under their belts to extend to younger players. Within position groups or simply in between a play during practice, no time for learning is wasted.
“[Tyler] took me in and brought me under his wing,” said redshirt-junior safety Jalen Ware. “On and off the field he’s taught me so much about the game and about life, how to be a better person.”
Yet with all of the sidebar conversations from veterans to underclassmen, and activities on off days, the football being played is still very competitive.
Junior safety DaeSean Winston sat out last season due to the pandemic, but has returned and impressed during camp as he vies for the second starting free safety spot.
“I’m locked in, I know what’s going on,” Winston said. “I know my job. I know my responsibilities.”
Carey took the team into training camp with the goal of developing his players while also bringing the team together, he said.
Wide Receivers Coach Thad Ward has noticed a change in the atmosphere from last offseason to this one as well.
“It’s been a great experience for us to really hone in on our crafts and get to know each other on a more personal level,” Ward said. “Obviously we didn’t have that last year. It is really good for the young guys to get away from distractions and allow them to really develop.”
With an emphasis on competition and togetherness at camp, Temple football could head into their season opener against Rutgers University on Sept. 2 in much better shape, as long as the qualities fostered in camp translate onto the field.