When Michael Dogbe committed to Temple as a high school senior in 2014, he received congratulations from NFL player Muhammad Wilkerson, who played on Temple’s defensive line from 2008-10.
Wilkerson, who was selected by the New York Jets as the 30th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, direct-messaged Dogbe on Twitter.
In 2010, Wilkerson wore No. 9, a single-digit number to signify his status as one of the Owls’ toughest players — a team tradition. He challenged Dogbe to earn the number during his career.
“Welcome to the family bro and I hope you dominate on the field,” Wilkerson wrote to Dogbe. “Yea u gotta wear that #9 with pride and rep it hard.”
Dogbe saved his exchange with Wilkerson and looked to it for motivation. The redshirt-senior defensive lineman earned the No. 9 jersey during Temple’s annual Champions Dinner on Friday and debuted it during Saturday’s Cherry and White Game at the Temple Sports Complex. Jacob Martin, a former defensive end who had eight sacks and wore No. 9 as a senior in 2017, presented Dogbe with his new jersey.
“This was just one of my biggest accomplishments here,” Dogbe said. “It was one of my goals I set coming out of high school. They were telling me about the whole tradition on my recruiting trip, and I made it my mission to make sure before I leave Temple that I get a single digit.”
Dogbe became the second player to earn a single-digit number during the spring practice season. Redshirt-senior quarterback Frank Nutile switched from No. 18 to No. 8 before the Owls’ first practice on March 13.
The No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 jerseys are still available because graduating seniors safety Sean Chandler, fullback Nick Sharga, wideout Keith Kirkwood and defensive end Sharif Finch wore them last year.
Dogbe had a chance to wear a single-digit number last season. Redshirt-junior wideout Ventell Bryant had the No. 1 through the Owls’ season-opening loss to the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 2.
For the rest of the season, the number rotated to a player who had a notable performance in the previous week’s game. After coach Geoff Collins started the No. 1’s weekly rotation, Dogbe became the first player to wear it during Temple’s 16-13 victory on Sept. 9 against Villanova.
He wasn’t slotted to play against Notre Dame because of an injury, but he ended up playing more than 40 snaps after redshirt-senior defensive lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd sustained an injury in warmups before the game.
Dogbe played in 12 of Temple’s 13 games last season and made six starts. In Saturday’s spring game, he made one tackle for a 5-yard loss.
“He’s physical, he works hard, he’s got a great attitude and on top of that, he just so happens to be a great player and a great leader for us,” Collins said.
In addition to earning a single-digit number, Dogbe also learned he’ll be taking a trip to Tokyo with some members of the football program from May 11-19.
In 2016, officials began considering the introduction of a governing body for college sports in Japan similar to the NCAA, The Japan Times reported in June. In Japan, most college teams rely on donations from former players and most coaches are volunteers, The Japan Times reported.
Collins said Temple is “going to be part of the forefront of starting intercollegiate athletics” in Japan.
He and the players will go to Temple’s Japan Campus to run coaching clinics and go on a speaking tour, Collins said. The players will receive college credit.
Nutile, junior cornerback Linwood Crump, junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright, junior linebacker Shaun Bradley, redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Matt Hennessy, redshirt-senior offensive lineman Jaelin Robinson and redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Dan Archibong will also attend.
Dogbe called the trip a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“Coach Collins asked who would like to go and he said he was going to select about eight to 10 guys, and I just told him, ‘Hey, coach, this is an opportunity I can’t miss out on,’” Dogbe said.
Dogbe came to Temple as a defensive end before former coach Matt Rhule moved him to the interior and told him to increase his weight. He said he learned the speed of college football and how to play the position from former Owls Hershey Walton and Matt Ioannidis in 2015.
He said he “blossomed” as a redshirt sophomore in the following season when he recorded 43 tackles.
“Unfortunately last year, I had a couple of injuries that set me back,” Dogbe said. “But, you know, I learned from them and hopefully just have a good senior year, taking it one day at a time.”