Plenty of good stories abounded at Saturday’s magical Cherry and White Game.
Magical, because as “blah” as the last few games seemed to be, the first Stan Drayton Extravaganza made us all forget those ones.
That’s a good thing.
Another was the fact that many former Owls made the trek back to the Edberg-OIson Football Complex, including guys like Nick Rapone.
Catching up with Nick–Bruce Arians’ defensive coordinator–was a blast.
Rapone was not only a big-time assistant coach for one Temple coach but he handled the special teams under Bobby Wallace at Temple.
I reminded Nick how Arians called a timeout in the last two minutes of a 35-30 win at Rutgers (the same RU team that beat Penn State) and berated Nick.
“Nick, what did he say?” I asked.
“He wanted us to get out of a prevent defense and go to an all-out blitz,” Rapone said. “They got to our 30. After we went to a blitz, we pulled off three-straight sacks and they ended the game back on their 30. We did the same thing against the Rams (this year) in the NFL playoffs. It didn’t work but that’s Bruce. You know what he always said, ‘No risky, no bisky.’ I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why Bruce is a Super Bowl champion.”
I told Nick I thought he should have been picked to get the Temple head coaching job after Matt Rhule left and mentioned that one of his former Temple players, Cap Poklemba, told me that “Nick Rapone was the best coach I ever had.”
“I love Cap,” Nick said. “Tell him I said hello the next time you see him.”
Did not get a chance to talk to Kurt Warner but his presence at the Cherry and White Game probably means a pre-game reunion in Lot K with former Arena Football teammate (and great Temple Owl) Brian Krulikowski is likely in a future Temple game.
Too bad we could not get a recreation of the photo that tops this post on Saturday, but there will be plenty of opportunities ahead.
Drayton’s appearance at Joe Greenwood’s Lot 10 tailgate cannot be underestimated, too. He promised to “get this thing back to the way you are used to it” and received a standing ovation from Greenwood, Sheldon Morris, Eddie Parker, Alshermond Singleton, Keith Gloster and just about every former Arians’ player.
Drayton said it in a manner that made you believe he meant it. His wife, Monique (the First Lady of Temple Football), connected with everyone at the tailgate, making a point to hug every single fan. That’s the kind of connection we haven’t seen here since the Matt Rhule and Al Golden Days when Al and Matt were doing the hugging (or at least shaking of hands).
Moreso, Drayton’s promise to bring in “other quarterbacks” to compete with D’wan Mathis for the starting job indicates that he won’t coddle fragile personalities if it stagnates the advancement of the organization as a whole and that’s the way it should be.
Finally, the Wayne Hardin Crew took time out to propose a toast to departed tailgate leader John Belli.
John will be honored this fall with an empty chair with his name on it before every home game. Hopefully, members of his family, particularly son Andrew, will grace us with their presence this fall because we know where that’s where John’s spirit will be.
Monday: A Story to Look Out For