Interview: Joe Klecko doesn’t forget his Temple roots

Radio Hall of Famer Mike Francesa brings up Temple football to Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Klecko here.

In about only five months, there will be a sea of Green and White and maybe a small lake of Cherry and White in Canton, Ohio for the induction of former Temple and New York Jet football star Joe Klecko into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps that’s not the way we’d like it to be on this Cherry and White site but that’s the way it will be. My druthers are Ocean of Cherry and White and sea of Green and White but I’m a realist and not necessarily an optimist.

Hell, maybe that’s the way it should be because it is, after all, the “Pro Football Hall of Fame” and not the college one.

Still, it’s only been a week or so and Klecko has seen double twice as far as Hall of Famers go.

He learned that he got into the hall with a knock on the door from fellow New York Jets’ Hall of Famer Joe Namath.

Two days later, he was interviewed by radio Hall of Famer Mike Francesa.

That’s a lot of Hall of Fame to consume in a couple of days and Klecko handled it like a pro.

Francesa, though, has to be the one given the credit for bringing up Temple football for the first time with a reference to Wayne Hardin.

Dan Klecko wearing his dad’s pro number at Temple.

Klecko handled the question like Larry Bowa usually handled a line drive backhand deep into the shortstop hole. Smoothly with a solid throw to first base.

Klecko gave credit to Hardin for preparing him for what was to come. You can hear the complete interview at the top of this post with the Temple part at the 7:37 time stamp but what struck me was Joe didn’t refer to himself as much as his Temple teammates for what Hardin did.

It was a short reference and kind of gave a preview of his acceptance speech, which will be about 92 percent New York Jet oriented.

Up the percentage for the presentation speech because there is no doubt in my mind that son Dan Klecko will give it. If Joe talks mostly about the Jets, we hope Dan will work in the mutual Temple football experience both shared. Hopefully, at least 14 percent of Dan’s speech will be about Joe’s Temple days.

Like Joe, Dan played football at Temple.

Joe was an honorable mention All-American at Temple but it could be argued from a receipts standpoint that Dan had the better college career, as Dan was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the Owls and Joe played an independent schedule.

Having seen Joe post 11 sacks in one game at Delaware (before sacks were an official NCAA stat) there was no doubt that Joe was a better college player. That’s no slight on Dan, who might have been the second-best Temple lineman I’ve ever seen. Remember, Temple had 10 sacks AS A TEAM in the 27-10 win over Penn State in 2015 and that was the biggest story coming out of that game.

With the kind of left jab to the helmet that made Joe Klecko the two-time NCAA boxing champion at Temple, he made life miserable for future Detroit Lions’ quarterback Brian Komlo, getting on him no more than one or seconds after the snap. Most of those 11 times, Joe only had to touch him and Komlo was on the ground.

The late great Chuck Newman, who covered Temple football for The Inquirer then, took the microphone in the U. of D. press box that day and announced, “Is there a doctor in the house? The Blue Hens’ center needs one now.”

Everybody laughed, even the guys at the Wilmington News-Journal who hated Temple.

Delaware then was a national championship contender at the FCS level, and Klecko’s sacks came in a 31-8 win before what is still to this day the largest home crowd in Delaware history. Klecko also dominated Pitt All-American center Mike Carey who entered the post-game press conference after the close win over the Owls and simply said this: “Joe was the best player I’ve ever gone against.”

Later, Cincinnati Bengals’ all-pro Anthony Munoz said the same thing at the pro level.

No one has ever been more deserving to get into the Hall than Joe but, from Temple’s perspective, Owl Nation turns its lonely eyes to Dan to work some Temple references into the second most important speech of the day.

Monday: A Most Interesting Candidate

Friday: The AAC Schedule


Other Temple Owls in the Super Bowl

One of the greatest Temple football videos ever. Not only narrated by the legendary Harry Kalas, but features great plays by two Temple Super Bowl players, Anthony Anderson and Steve Watson. On top of that, a father of a current Temple player, Bobby Salla, shows the form that made him the all-time leader in pass interceptions for a time at Temple. Love Temple beating Rutgers, Delaware and Villanova in the same year. Temple ends Rutgers’ six-game winning streak, 24-14. Great pass from Temple punter Casey Murphy to Watson and a Wes Sornisky cameo (RIP, Wes).

The last time I saw Joe Klecko we had this exchange after Dan Klecko’s last game.

“Now, Joe, just because Dan is graduating, that doesn’t mean you can’t stop tailgating with us next year,” I said.

“No, Mike, I will definitely be back for a couple of games,” Joe said.

Life must have gotten in the way because Joe–to the best of my knowledge–never made a Temple game again.

The next time I will see Joe is on Aug. 6, 2023, the day the first ex-Temple football player ever will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I plan on going to his induction ceremony in Canton (God-willing) as he was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame Thursday night. Preliminary plans for a bus trip are in the works.

Hopefully, I can push my way to the front of the line and shake his hand.

I probably will not mention our last exchange but tell him the tailgate is still going strong.

Joe Klecko as an Owl.

Me and Joe go back a long way. I was in Norm Kaner’s Sports in America Class at Temple sitting behind Joe. To my left was Steve Joachim, who won the Maxwell Award as the best College Football Player in the country in 1974. Steve was a senior. Joe and I were sophomores.

That was a fun class. We had a lot of laughs.

Norm would always say Temple is Harvard on the Delaware.

Joe was drafted in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL draft by the New York Jets. Steve was drafted in the seventh round by the Colts.

It was one of the electives you took to skate through school. That’s why half the football team was there. Hell, that’s why I was there.

I thought about Joe last night not only because of his induction into the Hall of Fame but because of the many great ex-Temple players who never got the chance to do what Haason Reddick and Shaun Bradley are doing now.

Playing in a Super Bowl.

To me, the GOAT of Temple football is Paul Palmer and even he never got a chance to play in a Super Bowl.

In fact, according to the NFL Network, 94.3 percent of the players who logged time in the league never played in the Super Bowl.

So we hope Haason and Shaun make the most of their opportunity.

We know they will like both Steve Watson did for the Broncos and Anthony Anderson did for the Steelers. Anderson’s one-time teammate, former Temple wide receiver Randy Grossman, has four Super Bowl rings after being converted to a tight end by Chuck Knoll.

This is how great Wayne Hardin was. Temple was 18 points away from an unbeaten untied season in 1978 and 17 points away from an unbeaten untied season in 1979. Can you imagine if Temple went 11-0 in back-to-back football seasons? Anderson and Watson were stars of the 77-78 squads and Steve Conjar and Mark Bright led the No. 17-ranked 1979 team.

Many years later, Reddick and Bradley continued their legacy.

They are like so many other ex-Temple players, a special kind of tough.

Temple TUFF.

Monday: Tweaking a Tradition

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.


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


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.


“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.


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.


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