What Klecko’s induction does for Temple

Too often, the ignorant is the norm when the subject is Temple football.

Even though the Owls pretty much have had the most Group of Five players in the NFL for the last decade, occasionally you come across a comment like this yesterday on Twitter:

Very funny.

Not.

Most “regular” Joe Blow NFL fans don’t follow things like what G5 team has the most NFL players and assume that the higher-profile G5 schools dominate.

Assuming sometimes means “making an ass out of you and me” but, in this guy’s case, it was him making an ass out of himself.

Unfortunately, that’s more than the norm than the exception. At least for the general comments I see on social media.

That’s why the almost certain lock nomination of Joe Klecko into the Pro Football Hall of Fame could do more to change that than anything. Being named one of the three finalists for the Hall of Fame, that’s a Hall of a Deal for Temple and Klecko. (Joe is a virtual lock as every group of three finalist has been rubberstamped into the Hall by the Veterans committee every year since 2009.)

Klecko will almost certainly get up there and talk about the New York Jets but also expect the father who sent a son to Temple and played for the Owls to spend a significant portion of his induction speech on Temple and Wayne Hardin.

Just the other day New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick mentioned Temple. Belichick, unlike the Joe Blow fan, knows his stuff.

“I have some connections to Temple and, of course, Baylor, they have players,” Belichick said on Thursday in this article.

Belichick mentioned his following Temple through knowing two Owl head coaches, Hardin and Matt Rhule.

Bill and Ernie Adams, both New York Giants’ assistant coaches at the time, watched Hardin take apart Cal in the Garden State Bowl.

“Ernie and I were sitting up there watching the game, and on the first series of plays, one guard pulled deep, the other guard pulled short,” Belichick said. “And they just folded around to get the linebacker, but they pulled. And the two inside linebackers ran into each other. I looked at Ernie, and he looked at me . . .”

Did Temple just screw that up, they wondered?

“Four or five plays later, the same thing. The two linebackers,” Belichick clapped his hands together loudly, imitating the collision, “because they’re standing right next to each other. They went right into each other. [Temple ran] straight down to the safety for, like, 20 yards. They must’ve run that play six or seven times and it was 20 yards every time . . . At the time, I’d never seen that before. That was Hardin. That was his coaching genius.”

All of this should have changed the perception of Temple football nationwide but, sadly, it has not for the most part. Beating Penn State and playing Notre Dame to a nail-biter on national TV should have helped but it’s a constant battle for respect when you are Temple.

The fast track to changing perceptions is in the hands of the guys working out at the Edberg-Olson Complex.

Beat Duke in less than two weeks and everyone in America will know Temple has a football team and a pretty good one.

Friday: One Week Until Duke

Breaking Good: Joe Klecko’s chances for HOF

Wayne Hardin has a great quote about Joe Klecko in the middle of this video.

Better Call Saul, probably the best TV series since Breaking Bad had its finale nine years ago, returns tonight for the final few episodes.

For fans like me, the Breaking Bad franchise will finally end as brilliant writer Vince Gilligan goes off to different projects and says no spinoffs are planned.

For the uninitiated, Breaking Bad was the way a good teacher (Walter White) went to become a meth kingpin and Saul Goodman was his lawyer.

Dan and Joe Klecko on Senior Day.

That’s the Breaking Bad story. Today we will talk about something Breaking Good.

Joe Klecko’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame broke very well last week when he was named a semifinalist for the 2023 Veterans Class.

In my mind (and the minds of Howie Long, Peter King, Mike Francesa and several other pro football experts), Klekco should have been in there 20 years ago. From a stat standpoint, he probably should have been in there before Long and Warren Sapp because the numbers said he was a more dominating defensive lineman.

Numbers don’t lie but maybe take it from the best offensive lineman of his era, Anthony Munoz (also in the Hall) who said, “Without a doubt, Joe Klecko was the hardest player I’ve ever had to block and it wasn’t even close.”

At Temple, while Tyler Matakevich and Dan Klecko were both good, there is no doubt in my mind that Joe Klecko was the most dominating defensive player in Temple history. I sat in the press box and watched Klecko make future Detroit Lions’ quarterback Brian Komlo’s day a living hell.

Before the largest Delaware Stadium crowd in history (23,619), to this day even, Klecko pushed the center aside and sacked Komlo 11 times in a 31-8 Temple win. That was a pretty good Delaware team that made the national quarterfinals at its level. While the NCAA didn’t keep sacks that year, the reporters in the press box did. Klecko was on Komlo almost at the snap count on five of those sacks. In a 27-10 Temple win over Penn State (2015), the Owls had an impressive 10 sacks as a team.

To think that one player could get 11 in a game is mind-boggling.

At St. James High, Klecko’s team won the City Championship by beating a pretty good Frankford team, 43-0. The Jimmies didn’t attempt a pass the whole game.

KIecko was the only Owl to go from pro football to Temple. (Well, semi-pro.) He kept his college eligibility playing under the assumed name “Jim Jones” for the Aston Knights while working as a truck driver. The Aston Knights equipment manager was also the Temple equipment manager who told head coach Wayne Hardin: “You’ve got to see this guy. He’s unblockable.” Hardin did and the rest was history. Klecko was a two-sport athlete at Temple and won consecutive NCAA boxing titles (when boxing was a college sport).

Klecko was a regular Temple tailgater during Dan’s years (where he was Big East Defensive Player of the Year). The last time I saw him tailgating in Lot K was Dan’s final game.

“Now, Joe, just because Dan’s leaving I hope that doesn’t mean you won’t be back,” I said.

“No, Mike, I’ll be here,” Joe said.

The last time I saw him at Al Golden’s introductory press conference. The two were Colts Neck, N.J. neighbors at the time.

I reminded him of the tailgating story and Joe laughed, saying life had gotten in the way.

Maybe Temple will have him back next season after he gives his Canton, Ohio induction speech. There is nobody in this class more deserving.

Friday: 5 Individual Achievements That Could Happen

July 18: What they’re saying

Cross: Klecko Was the Best I’ve Ever Played Against

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Randy Cross back in the day

Five takeaways from the Navy game:

In between former All-Pro Randy Cross pulling out the hairs on his head questioning both Temple football offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s personnel packages and play calls, he dropped this gem when a photo of Joe Klecko playing for Temple was displayed during CBS Sports Network’s broadcast of Temple at Navy on Oct. 13.

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“In my 12 years in Pro Football, Joe Klecko was the single best player I’ve ever played against, any position,” Cross said. “In my mind, he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it’s kind of a travesty that’s he’s not. I mean, how many players in the NFL have made the pro bowl at three different positions (tackle, end, nose guard)? I would venture to say none.”

Cross’ Temple Connection

In the interest of full disclosure, Cross said: “I have a Temple connection. My niece went there and she’s a proud graduate.” Not because of that or because of the Klecko comment, but Cross–perhaps more than any other color commentator in recent years–did his homework on the Owls and a great job on the game itself.

Not very many UCLA graduates have a Temple connection and, in December, Cross will have two when Paul Palmer is inducted into the college football Hall of Fame. Cross was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Freddy Booth-Lloyd’s Recovery

Seeing nose tackle Freddy Booth-Lloyd (err, Freddy Love) writhing on the ground in pain, it looked to me like he was done for the season. He was reaching down and holding his knee and it did not appear to be a cramp but something like a tear so to see him come back into the game and play like, well, Joe or Dan Klecko in completely bottling up the Navy dive play was a miracle. Maybe one of those Blue Angel jets gave him a quick ride to Lourdes but it was perhaps the most amazing recovery I’ve ever seen a Temple player make during a single game. He should make for a great Temperor should he not make the NFL.

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Anthony Russo Should Be 5-0

Through no fault of his own, Anthony Russo chalked up the L against Boston College. That’s a little like Harvey Haddix pitching a 12-inning perfect game in 1959 and losing, but that’s what he did. Russo was not perfect against BC, but one of his interceptions was delivered right between the numbers of a Temple player, who saw it bounce off his chest and then reached up and grabbed it with both hands only to see it bounce off those hands into the arms of a BC defender. Owls were driving for a sure score there with a 21-13 lead and 5:08 left in the half and that turned the game around. Toss in a perfectly thrown bomb that was dropped (by the same Temple receiver) and a horrendous coaching call on a third-and-two play and his teammate and offensive coordinator did him no favors. Here’s how impressive that would have been: No QB in the history of Temple has ever started 5-0 and that includes Maxwell Trophy-winner Steve Joachim and bowl-winning quarterback Chris Coyer, both 4-1 and 4-0, respectively. For a guy who really hasn’t played any meaningful downs in two years, that’s remarkable.

Navy Controversy

After watching the game, I went out to the local supermarket and was able to pick up the Navy post-game show on WBAL (1080 AM), Baltimore. All they did for a good 45 minutes after the game was talk about a “bad call” that “affected the outcome.” I’m thinking, “What bad call?” Evidently, they felt a block in the back a Navy player had on Freddy Love was erroneous but the replay of the game clearly showed the Navy player used both hands to push down on FBL’s back. None of the announcers had any problem with it and it just goes to show you two sets of fans can look at the same thing and come to different conclusions. That’s a call that had to be made, though.

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis