Adrian Sullivan fell in love with Temple long before he joined the Owls’ football team.
Sullivan’s uncle, Andrew Dees, coached tight ends and the offensive line from 2006-10 under former coach Al Golden and brought him to watch practices. Sullivan admired the physicality and camaraderie of linemen like Sean and Pat Boyle, Derek Dennis and Wayne Tribue.
Sullivan wears No. 69, the same number Tribue wore when he played at Temple from 2008-11.
“They were just strong, physical linemen,” the redshirt-senior offensive lineman said. “That’s what I wanted to be when I was younger.”
Sullivan is only in his fifth or sixth year playing football, Dees said. But he started all 14 games last season at right guard and wants to be a leader this season. Through his uncle’s mentorship, Sullivan has benefitted from years of professional-level instruction.
Dees is the assistant offensive line coach for the Buffalo Bills, the NFL team that drafted former Temple left tackle Dion Dawkins in the second round this year. Dees held the same position for the Bills in 2012 and with the San Diego Chargers from 2013-15. He coached at the college level from 1997-2011.
For three days in early July on Sullivan’s native Long Island, Dees and his nephew worked on cutoff and inside blocking techniques to create lanes for running backs. Dees coached Sullivan on his stance and how to use his hands to his advantage. They also did a punch-timing drill, which focuses on having a strong punch when a defender comes within arm’s length to keep him away from the quarterback.
Footwork is also an aspect of playing guard on which Dees focuses. Guards need to have compact and vertical footwork because they work in confined spaces to move defenders upfield, Sullivan said.
Dees began instructing Sullivan when he was 13 or 14 years old. Sullivan, a former basketball player, saw the opportunities football presented after watching Temple practices, Dees said.
“I think the biggest thing was that he was telling me not to be so anxious,” Sullivan said of his uncle. “It was good to have somebody that could kind of lead me through the process. So if I was nervous that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, he could tell me, if I was on track to be able to do what I needed to do.”
The Owls return three of their five starters on the offensive line from last year. Sullivan and three other linemen started every game at the same position.
Sullivan said he wants to be part of the best unit in the American Athletic Conference. And his uncle has high expectations for him as well.
“I’m expecting for him to act like he’s a year older and stronger and now he’s a senior,” Dees said. “So hopefully he’s going to be a leader and do whatever is necessary to help the team win. Because that’s the bottom line is winning.”