The guys who played with Paul Palmer have tailgated near the entrance to Lot K every home Saturday for too many years to count.
You can tell them apart from the rest of us by the familiar cherry “Tight As A Fist” T-Shirts they wear.
The slogan represents what they have been as people since they first met either on recruiting trips or checking in at Peabody Hall.
On Monday, as many as could fit into a car traveled to New York’s Hilton Hotel for the National College Football Foundation Hall of Fame festivities that were broadcast live last night (ESPN3).
Many more watched from home.
As a young reporter in my late 20s, I covered all of Paul Palmer’s games for the Calkins Newspaper group. In those days, newspaper budgets were large enough they send you on trips with the team on the team charter and then reimburse the school.
I flew on the team charter to Provo, Utah with Paul and his teammates and head coach Bruce Arians in 1986. When we left Philly, the air conditioning on the plane wasn’t working on a hot day and we sweated it out waiting an hour in a holding pattern before takeoff. When we landed in Provo, we had to wait outside for just as long wearing nothing more than blazers in 31-degree weather.
Temple lost the game, 17-10.
I interviewed all of them as a youngster but never got to really KNOW them until the last decade or so.
They turned out to be better men than players and they were terrific players.
In two of Palmer’s years, the Owls played the 10th-toughest schedule in the country and finished with winning seasons. With paltry facilities, they beat teams like Peach Bowl-bound Virginia Tech (29-13) and California-bowl bound Toledo (35-6).
The Owls have not played anywhere near the kind of brutal schedule since and, despite that backdrop, Palmer is still the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Palmer’s induction last night represents closure of sorts for the Temple program because he becomes the first Owl player to make it, hopefully of many. The Owls have a pair of coaches (Pop Warner and Wayne Hardin) in the Hall of Fame.
Now they have a player who without a doubt is their greatest ever. Long after we are all gone, because he is there, Temple will be, too.
Friday: Elephant In The Room