Sam Franklin admitted Manny Diaz’s departure after 18 days as Temple University’s football coach could have hurt the team’s spirits. But that won’t be the case for this team, he and his teammates say.
When the senior linebacker joined the team in 2016, the graduating class told him, “it doesn’t really matter about coaches, it matters about the team.”
The players have formed a brotherhood that will withstand a head-coach carousel, like the one Temple Athletics found themselves on this past month, Franklin and several other players said.
Before newly named coach Rod Carey addressed the media on Friday, athletic director Patrick Kraft said the players, not the coaches, make the program. He credits this as the reason the program has been successful in recent years.
They Owls’ upperclassmen will be spreading that message as Carey joins the Owls as the fifth coach hired since 2010. He inherits a program that had its winningest four-year stretch in history from 2015-18, despite the coaching changes. The only constant thing for this team is leaning on their teammates on and off the field.
“We’re gonna come together as a team like we’ve been doing,” Franklin said. “At the end of the day, [the players] are going to have to present and perform. We can learn the scheme, but effort, hard work and how hard you go, that’s all something the team controls.”
As leaders, Franklin and redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo, both of whom are on their fourth coach at Temple, feel they should relay that message to the younger Owls.
“I want to show the young guys that no matter what’s going on with the coaches coming and leaving, what really matters is the brotherhood in the locker room and that we are all going to work for each other,” Russo said.
Freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis, who joined the team as a mid-year enrollee, said he felt the strength of the Owls’ brotherhood, even before stepping on campus as an official student.
“I feel like I can call these guys my family, my blood-family because this is a special group,” Davis said. “It takes a lot of guts to go through what the guys at Temple and the recruits are going through right now, to be able to go through two coaching changes. …It just shows that the blood is thicker than water in the sense that these guys are really a good family.”
Davis was shocked when he found out through an ESPN alert that Diaz had left, but he and the Class of 2019 recruits told each other in a group chat that they were “going to show coaches why they should’ve never left,” Davis said.
“Even with all the coaching changes, one thing Temple has continued to do is to win games,” Davis added. “That shows why we are tough and why we are Temple tough. That’s a program that anybody should want to be a part of. Temple stays consistent, puts their foot on the gas and keeps going.”
Temple is better equipped for a coaching change now compared to when former coach Matt Rhule left because they’ve been through this before, Russo said.
“Everyone on the team is just going to take it as a motivation, and it’s going to push us to go harder every day,” Franklin said.
Carey didn’t address the team before his introductory press conference on Friday, but he met the team at Edberg-Olson Hall on Sunday. On both days, Carey’s message of “trust” was evident.
When addressing the entire team, Carey said the best way to earn trust is to show it, not say it, Russo said.
Carey said on Friday that it will be a day-to-day process to building trust with his players, a group that welcomed a new coach just a month ago.
“[Carey] doesn’t want to tell us how to trust him, he wants to show us why we can trust him,” Russo said. “Hearing him wanting to base the program around trust is something that I really like.”
“We’re going to have fun playing football, we’re going to be physical and we’re going to learn to trust each other,” Carey said on Friday. “And that’s gotta be something that just takes time. …This is step one, you hear me. There are a lot more to come, and we’re going to take them together.”
For Russo, Carey’s intentions are what matters most.
“The big thing about him is that he wants to be here,” Russo added. “He doesn’t want to go anywhere else. …It seems like he wants to be here for the long run, and that is why I think he is going to be successful.”