Temple’s Jadan Blue had to take a step backward to move forward. Now, he is once again moving very swiftly on the football field.
The redshirt sophomore receiver has come out of the gates charging for the 2-0 Owls, who will visit Buffalo (1-2) on Saturday. In last week’s 20-17 win over then-No. 21 Maryland, Blue had five receptions for 132 yards and a score.
The touchdown was a 79-yard pass from Anthony Russo, who hit Blue on a go route. He went in untouched.
“That just felt so good, knowing the work you put in during the week paid off,” Blue said earlier this week. “Ever since the spring, it is paying off and it really feels good.”
For Blue, it simply feels good to be playing football, something he wasn’t doing for a while last year.
After seven games last season, he decided to leave the team for personal reasons.
“I had to get my mind right. Sometimes you have to step away from something to see where your heart is,” Blue said. “That is what I had to find out for myself.”
He found out how much he loved the game.
“I came back, and that is the most important thing. God brought me back,” he said. “I am blessed working every day.”
Blue decided during the winter that he wanted to come back, so he met with new coach Rod Carey.
“I met with Jadan and asked how he was and he kind of explained a little bit in general terms what went on, and I said, ‘Jadan, what I am interested in is do you want to be part of us because I would like to get to know you,’ " Carey said.
Blue, who caught three passes for 39 yards last year, assured Carey he did indeed want to return. And in the spring, it didn’t take Blue long to make an impression.
“Jadan took to [receivers coach Thad Ward] right away and with us. The relationship started growing,” Carey said. “He went out and worked.”
The work hasn’t stopped for Blue, who has earned a starting spot, playing in the slot. During practice, the staff tracks how much a player runs.
“Last Tuesday, he ran three miles more than any other receiver in practice,” Carey said. “Three miles more. Are you kidding me? That dude works.”
Nobody on Temple seems surprised by the 6-foot, 180-pound Blue, who opened the season with 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown during the Owls’ 56-12 victory over Bucknell.
“He has been making these plays in practice for the past year and a half," Russo said. “For him to be able to make these plays on Saturdays, the same plays he is making in practice, not only builds his confidence, but builds the confidence for everyone on the offense.”
Blue hasn’t lacked confidence, even when he wasn’t playing much.
“I always have been confident,” he said. “Of course, a start like that always does help.”
Blue’s success wouldn’t have occurred without good communication between him and Carey upon his return to the team.
“I poured my heart out to him, and he fully understood,” Blue said. “He wanted me to take care of myself first and foremost, and he welcomed me like family.”
Carey is thrilled that Blue is back, and not only because of his contributions on the field. For all the X’s and O’s that are part of coaching, developing relationships is just as important.
This relationship has helped the player, the coach, and the entire team.