About the time Russell Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.
The formula in the last decade has worked particularly well for Temple football, as the Owls have mined their own backyard and found a few diamonds that helped elevate their program to a national profile.
No one knows if Russell’s theory works in the opposite direction, but there appears to be a “Conwell Curse” on the few players who have left these acres searching for not diamonds but gold. Once you’ve solved the Conwell puzzle and found your diamonds right in your backyard, it’s bad Karma to stray.
There is not much data to work with on what happened to players who left Temple for so-called greener pastures but there is enough evidence to suggest it won’t necessarily end well for the two most recent departures.
Consider this: Temple had two linemen drafted in the NFL first-round in the last decade: One was Mo Wilkerson and the other was Haason Reddick. Staying at Temple did not hurt those last two so Quincy Roche leaving for ostensibly a high-end Power 5 school is a real head-scratcher.
Maybe he will be drafted in the first round next year, maybe not, but in our preview of the North Carolina game we wrote that “Quincy Roche and company getting to Sam Howell early and often is the only way that Temple has a chance to win this game.” Quincy did not get to Howell early and often. He didn’t get to him at all. Not only that, his key offside on a blocked field goal for a touchdown cost the Owls a possible 17-14 deficit at halftime instead of a 17-6 one. If the way a 6-6 Power 5 team blocked him was any indication of how 9-3, 10-2, 11-1 or even 12-0 Power 5 teams will block him, he will not be a No. 1 NFL draft pick. That’s not sour grapes. That’s a simple fact.
If, on the other hand, Roche followed up his AAC Defensive Player of the Year with another great year at Temple, he would have had the same chance Wilkerson and Reddick had to be drafted No. 1 by an NFL team. Also, Roche had a breakout year not under Geoff Collins but under the tutelage of line coach Walter Stewart. Had he stayed for another year under Stewart, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have continued along the same trend line.
Somehow, I don’t think Roche reasoned the above logic into his transfer decision or somebody is giving him very bad advice.
The same goes for tight end Kenny Yeboah. At Temple in 2019, Yeboah–a Parkland High graduate whose family made the easy trip down to see him play every home game–caught 19 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns.
The total number of passes caught by tight ends at Baylor in 2019: Five. That’s right. Five passes caught by all of the tight ends in the Baylor program. Does anyone really believe that Matt Rhule, if he even remains at Baylor, is going to drastically change a system that worked for him in Waco to accommodate the needs and wants of a transfer from Temple? I don’t. My money is on Yeboah catching fewer than 19 passes, getting fewer than 248 yards and five touchdowns at Baylor next season. For his sake, I hope they change the offense but Rhule would kick himself if he changed something that gave him an 11-2 regular season for any level of uncertainty. What happens is Rhule leaves for the NFL? That leaves Yeboah a thousand miles away from home without the support system of coaches and teammates who know and love him, not to mention family and friends who won’t be able to travel to his home games.
When it comes to leaving Temple, look at kicker Austin Jones. Before Jones was cheap-shotted on a kickoff at Memphis, he made 17-straight field goals at Temple over a two-year period that began in 2015 when he was 44 for 45 in extra points and 23 for 28 in field goals. Before the cheap shot that robbed him of finishing a championship season, Jones was 10 for 12 in field goals (he missed two in the Memphis game after getting 17 straight). Then he grad transferred to Alabama, where he really only saw the field as a cheerleader on the sideline. His stats at Bama: 1 for 2 in field goals and 1-3 in extra points. The two missed extra points soured Nick Saban on Jones and he was relegated to the bench for the rest of the season.
Another tight end, Kip Patton, downgraded from Temple to Tennessee Tech and got in trouble with the law. At Temple, the only trouble Patton caused was to opponents and his best season was in 2015, catching 12 passes for 168 yards. If he had stayed at Temple, things might have turned out differently.
Marshall Ellick, a wide receiver, transferred from Temple to Stony Brook for the 2018 season. At Temple, he caught 22 passes for 234 yards. At Stony Brook, he caught 22 passes for 311 yards. Hardly worth packing the stuff and moving to New York.
Maybe things will turn out great for Yeboah and Roche, two men who found their Acres of Diamonds right here and got greedy for more. Maybe they should have asked Jones, Patton, and Ellick first. Better yet, maybe they should have read the founder’s book.
Conwell is probably looking down and saying I told you so.
Monday: Turning It Around