When former Temple offensive lineman John Palumbo visited football practice last Friday, one athlete on the roster in particular caught his attention.
“You’re still here?” Palumbo asked sixth-year center Sean Boyle.
“Yeah, bro,” Boyle replied.
After going through five surgical procedures on his shoulders during his collegiate career, Boyle is back for one last season with the Owls. The six-foot-five 305 pound medical senior’s return to the field is still a work in progress. Boyle did not participate in the team’s first scrimmage Saturday, as coach Matt Rhule says the coaching staff is “trying to be smart” in handling the injury.
“It’s growing pains, every time you continuously suffer from injuries,” Boyle said. “So it’s a work in progress. Obviously the goal is to be 100 percent on gameday. We’re taking it slow right now, and I’ll be ready when I need to be.”
On what he can expect from Boyle this season, Rhule doesn’t have a clear answer.
“I don’t know,” Rhule said. “That’s a great question. It’s like any chronic injury, you don’t know. He didn’t scrimmage [Saturday]. We’re hoping to have him, but if not, we’re getting the young guys ready to play.”
Even having to battle through five operations to make a return to football, Boyle maintains a positive attitude about his entire situation.
“It’s a process,” Boyle said. “Everybody faces some kind of adversity in life and mine happens to be injuries from playing football. It’s something you’ve got to attack the same way you would attack learning a playbook, the same way you’d attack getting in the weight room. So, all in all, I have the same mindset in getting healthy as I would getting ready for a game.”
Boyle was recruited for Temple around six years ago, and started playing for the team as a freshman during the 2008 season. He played in every game during his freshman and sophomore seasons, before the string of shoulder problems began. Boyle missed the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons before returning to the team last year—when he suffered from more shoulder problems midway through the season. Now, as he pursues a master’s degree in sports psychology, Boyle finds himself the longest tenured Owl on the current roster.
“I was here when we had the small weight room and nothing indoors,” Boyle said. “This facility wasn’t the same. So I kind of feel like I’m carrying a torch from [former players] too. There’s definitely no pressure, but it definitely feels good knowing that out of the guys that I’ve played with, somebody on that team can still play on this team.”
Boyle, who originates from Towson, Md., has indeed seen his fair share of change through his time with Temple. Through three lettered seasons, Boyle has witnessed Al Golden coaching the team to its first bowl appearance in 30 years, the transition into Steve Adazzio’s two-year stint leading the Owls and now the hiring of Matt Rhule (who originally helped recruit Boyle when he attended Calvert Hall College High School).
“Every coach is different, they have their own philosophies and mindsets on how to approach practice, how to approach meetings, how to approach interacting with the players,” Boyle said. “I think coach Rhule has a little bit of a mixture of everybody I’ve been around already.”
“He’s a player’s coach,” Boyle added. “So he wants to treat us like men. He wants us to be able to handle ourselves like we’re supposed to at this age in our lives—18-22, me being 23.”
As Boyle continues “carrying the “torch” as he calls it, for past players like Palumbo and others, he enters training camp with a few clear objectives in mind.
“My ultimate goal is to stay healthy,” Boyle said. “I think that’s a huge goal on everybody’s list. And obviously I want to help the team do as best we can. I want to contribute as much as possible, just so we can have a memorable season for my sixth try.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.