Temple University football honors Paul Palmer with tailgate

The former running back and 1986 Heisman Trophy runner-up will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.

Former Temple University running back Paul Palmer (center) hugs his daughter Kayla (left) and his wife Leah after giving a speech during a tailgate celebrating his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Lincoln Financial Field's Lot K.

Before he enters Lincoln Financial Field about one hour before kickoff to color commentate Temple University football games on the radio, former running back Paul Palmer likes to walk around Lot K.

For him, it’s a chance to catch up with his former Temple teammates from the 1980s and any of his other friends at the game before he reviews his notes for the broadcast.

He didn’t have to do much walking on Saturday before the Owls’ 19-17 loss to Villanova. Temple hosted a pre-game tailgate celebrating Palmer, who will be the first Temple player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. Palmer ran for 4,895 yards and 39 touchdowns from 1983-86 with the Owls and finished as the runner-up for the 1986 Heisman Trophy.

He earned First Team All-American honors in 1986 before being selected with the 19th pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. The National Football Foundation first announced the Hall of Fame class in January.

“It seems like every step we go, the closer we get to the moment, it’s just gotten more and more exciting,” Palmer said. “And ironically, once we get to the moment where I get the ring, the steps after that are going to be just as exciting.”

During the tailgate, Palmer and Athletic Director Patrick Kraft addressed the crowd of fans and Palmer’s former teammates, like wide receiver Keith Gloster, defensive back Joe Greenwood, running back Sheldon Morris and offensive lineman Kevin Jones.

Palmer will join former coaches Glenn “Pop” Warner, Ray Morrison and Wayne Hardin as Temple representatives in the Hall of Fame. By becoming the first player to be enshrined, it’s almost like he represents the history of Temple’s program.

Kraft hopes Palmer’s enshrinement gives other former Temple players like Tyler Matakevich, who recorded nearly 500 career tackles from 2012-15 and earned All-American honors as a senior, the chance to be inducted.

“If Tyler Matakevich doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame, in my humble opinion, that’s crazy,” Kraft said. “And there’s just a lot that have done so many great things in the game, and I think there’s more to come. Hopefully, some of these guys that are playing [Saturday] will be in.”

When Greenwood learned Palmer will be among the 10 players inducted later this year, he shed tears of joy.

Not only did the two play with each other at Temple, they played against each other in Europe in the World League of American Football, which was later renamed as NFL Europe until its discontinuation in 2007.

They talked about once a week and faced each other at least three times while Palmer played in Spain for the Barcelona Dragons and Greenwood played in Germany for the Frankfurt Galaxy.

About five years ago, Greenwood took a trip to Atlanta, home to the College Football Hall of Fame. But he vowed to himself to never enter the museum until Palmer received enshrinement.

Now, he can enter the building the next time he is in Atlanta.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we all tell him that,” Greenwood said. “I always kinda knew it would happen, at least I hoped it’d happen. But when he got the news, I mean, he’s like a brother to me and I was just as emotional as he was about it.”

There won’t be an organized tailgate celebrating Palmer before next week’s game against the University at Buffalo, but Palmer will still stop to see familiar faces before he heads to the broadcast booth about an hour before game time.

“A lot of people that are here, we were in each other’s weddings and our kids call [us] ‘uncles’ and we call each other’s kids our ‘nieces’ and ‘nephews,’” Palmer said. “So I try to spend a lot of time with them.”

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