Raheem Brock and Dan Klecko shared a room while playing football at Temple.
Now, both members of the Indianapolis Colts, they share one of sports’ greatest trophies, the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“We were always friends,” Brock said. “We came to Indy and started to hang out like we used to.”
His time at Temple, Brock said, helped him get to the point he’s reached today – as a Super Bowl champion. The defensive tackle, who grew up in Philadelphia, chose Temple primarily because of his family.
“My dad went to Temple,” Brock said. “They have a good business school and I had a daughter and wanted to stay in the city.”
After his career at Temple, it seemed Brock would remain in Philly until the Eagles selected him in the seventh round of the 2002 NFL Draft. It was a great feeling for Brock, who grew up an Eagles fan.
“You have no choice growing up in Philly,” he said of following the Eagles. “It was definitely exciting being drafted by them.”
Brock appeared to be headed to an Eagles team that was at the beginning of a successful run. Success was something Brock had not known while playing for the Owls, who compiled a 14-31 record during his collegiate career.
“It was tough mentally, people talked about the football team,” said the 6-4, 274-pound Brock. “It was tough practicing, working hard in the off-season and then losing games.”
“It made us all closer together,” said former coach Bobby Wallace, who coached Brock. “We were very competitive in the Big East [Conference]. We won four games for three seasons. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we were.”
When Wallace arrived at Temple, Brock played the tight end position. “He was very raw,” Wallace said. “We saw how much talent he had.” Brock agreed to move to the defensive side of the ball. “He would make plays, work hard and lead on field by example,” Wallace said.
And it all worked out for the best.
“He was unselfish to move to defense and became one of the best defensive players in the Big East,” said Wallace. “Raheem was a super person.
He came in and worked extra hard on the field and in the classroom.”
After being drafted, Brock was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Like at Temple, criticism surrounded the Colts’ defense, which was considered one of the worst in the league. This season the Colts’ defense ranked in the middle of the pack in total defense.
“It was tough but everything happens for a reason,” he said. “We also knew what we needed to do.”
The Colts finished the regular season 12-4 and won the AFC South. But skeptics said it would be the defense that would hold back Peyton Manning’s high-powered offense, and ultimately cost them.
“[In the] beginning of the season, we played good,” Brock said. “But a couple of injuries, and we had lots of inexperience in certain areas, [hurt us].” All that changed in the playoffs.
“A lot of guys came back healthy,” Brock said. “We made some adjustments and the coaches came up with some great schemes.”
After allowing a league-high 173 rushing yards a game in the regular season, the Colts held each of their postseason opponents under 100 yards and carried the team through the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, the defense forced two interceptions and one sack and recovered three fumbles – including one by Brock – as the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17, Feb. 4.
“We wanted to earn our respect after the regular season,” Brock said of the defense. “We went out there and got it. Everybody knows defense wins championships.”
Brock wasn’t alone in the Super Bowl, as two other Temple players suited up for the big game. Klecko won his third Super Bowl (the previous two had come in New England), but played in the big one for the first time. Jason McKie started at fullback for the Chicago Bears.
Wallace, who coached all of them, was proud.
“They really had to persevere,” Wallace said. “It’s great to see their work pay off. They had to go through some hard times, but all the hard work paid off.”
“It feels great,” Brock said of winning the Super Bowl. “We worked so hard. The things we went through the past few years, it feels great to finally win.”
Brock understands what Temple players are going through currently. But he said they need to stay positive, offering this advice:
“Keep working hard,” he said. “Don’t give in, don’t give up. Keep going at it.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.