The attention is on him. The pressure is on him. The weight of an entire team falls on his shoulders.
But he’s cool with that.
Entering his senior season with some of the highest expectations the football team has experienced in a long time, quarterback Adam DiMichele is nothing but ready to meet those challenges head on.
When told that the demands, the stress, the eyes and ears of the fans, would be on him, the Owls’ undisputed leader had a simple and straightforward answer.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.
That kind of response is a key reason why coach Al Golden entrusts his offense and his team to DiMichele.
“I can’t say enough; I just think he is a special individual,” Golden said. “He does a great job in the classroom, he does a tremendous job in the community. He’s got the work ethic, he’s got the football IQ, he’s got moxie; he’s got leadership. So that’s a hard combination to beat.”
But it almost never happened.
DiMichele began his collegiate career playing baseball at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College in Niceville, Fla. Though he performed well, the urge to play football was still lingering after DiMichele’s successful high school career in western Pennsylvania.
Throwing the football around in the warm southern weather to stay familiar with the game, DiMichele eventually decided to give the sport another go after two seasons of baseball. And since former Temple assistant coach Jeff Nixon was conveniently recruiting his brother, it then became pretty easy for the Owls to go after him.
“We had the chance to look at his tape, and [he] really had just a tremendous arm, great vision and feel for the game,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Rhule said. “He’s one of those kids that was good at every sport. He brought a lot to the table in terms of athleticism,” Rhule said.
So with that, DiMichele was headed north to a team that didn’t win any games the previous season.
One might think that getting a scholarship offer from Temple is a mixed blessing, considering the dire straits the program was in.
But DiMichele didn’t see it that way.
“That was the main reason I wanted to come here, to change things up,” he said. “I came here for a challenge; that’s what I’ve been given. That’s what’s been thrown at me. It’s pretty exciting, actually.”
That excitement translated to a 2006 season where DiMichele started nine games and threw for 1,518 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Owls only won one game that year, and personal victories aside, it was a truly frustrating year for the Cherry and White.
“It was rough. No one’s really used to losing; no one likes losing,” DiMichele said. “Obviously, it’s the total opposite of what we’re trying to do. We came a long way…but that first year was definitely a learning process as the youngest team in the country,” he said.
The fact that the Owls had such a young team allowed DiMichele to step up and take on a leadership role on the team in 2007, despite the fact that he was just a redshirt junior.
But then again, that’s something that must just be in his DNA.
“He’s one of those guys everybody thinks he is. He leads in the locker room, leads in the weight room, leads in the field,” senior wide receiver Bruce Francis said. “He takes charge.”
His center felt the same way.
“Even under all the pressure, he somehow remains cool, calm and collected,” senior Alex Derenthal said. “He really just takes control of any situation that we’re in.”
Those intangibles, coupled with his play, helped DiMichele win the starting quarterback job in 2007 after a training camp battle with then-sophomore Vaughn Charlton. While the team did start the season 0-5 before winning three games in a row, DiMichele played well and took charge of the team.
However, it was the final of those three straight wins that proved costly.
On Oct. 20 against Miami (OH), DiMichele broke his leg and his season, just as things were hitting their stride.
“[It was] frustrating. We were just doing better than we’ve done in a long time,” DiMichele said. “I probably had about 5,000 thoughts running through my mind at that moment, thinking about my family, my teammates, thinking I let them down, [thinking] am I going to play again? Once I got in that ambulance, I just put all my faith in God and in my teammates and the rehab people.”
That faith held up as DiMichele returned to action last Friday against Army, throwing for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the Owls’ dominating 35-7 win.
Golden, normally straight and to the point, was just that when talking about DiMichele’s play.
“What can you say about him?” Golden said. “Should he even be out there medically? He’s a great kid; he looked good, no limp, just really did a nice job.”
So with DiMichele leading the way, this season has a chance to be a special one for the Owls.
While it’s tough to truly get a gauge on whether this team is simply better than last year’s or even bowl-caliber, it’s evident to see the confidence DiMichele has in himself is making its way around Edberg-Olson Hall football facility.
“There’s not a throw I don’t think he can make,” Francis said. “There’s a lot of chemistry. When I go out there, he knows I’m going to run the right route and he trusts me to make the catch. And that’s how it is.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.