The season was going well last year for Temple’s Vincent Picozzi, an extension of his career. But, all of the sudden, his redshirt junior year was over.
Picozzi, a product of Lansdale Catholic High School who started all nine games last season at right guard, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 7 during a 17-7 win at South Florida in a Thursday night game.
Surgery followed for a player who has made 28 career starts for Temple after entering the program as a walk-on.
“I’m playing a good game, a great game. We’re going in [to score] and then, of course, I got hurt,” Picozzi said on Tuesday in a Zoom interview. “Probably every O-lineman’s worst fear is having a knee injury.”
Picozzi, now a graduate student, said he wasn’t in a lot of pain. But the next day, the MRI showed that his MCL and PCL ligaments were, as he called it, “a little banged up.”
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Picozzi needed surgery, and he said six weeks after that he was able to begin his rehab process.
During Temple’s camp, he has been working at center and guard but is likely to resume his starting spot at guard. C.J. Perez, a graduate transfer from coach Rod Carey’s former school, Northern Illinois, is among the candidates to start at center.
In addition, junior Adam Klein a two-year starter at tackle, has also been taking reps at center.
No matter where he plays, Picozzi is likely to be the Owls’ top offensive lineman. He is certainly the most experienced. And Picozzi is happy to be back and says he isn’t worried about his knee.
“It feels good now, and I can’t wait to get back with football,” he said.
He said as far as the knee goes, “the strength is there.”
Besides Picozzi, the other starters back on the offensive line are Klein and junior left tackle Isaac Moore.
The Owls have to replace two huge contributors, center Matt Hennessy, a third-team Associated Press All-American and third-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, and guard Jovahn Fair, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent.
Besides Perez, there are several players vying for the other spots, according to offensive line coach Joe Tripodi. Unlike last year, when all five offensive line starters returned, this year there are more questions.
One certainty is that Picozzi is among the leaders not just on the offensive line but the entire team.
“It was hard to watch him go down as I played next to him for two years, kind of like my partner in crime,” said Klein, an Episcopal Academy graduate. “Now that he is back fully healthy, it’s been great to see him work again.”
Klein said he has taken advantage of playing with such an experienced teammate.
“I play alongside him sometimes, and it’s always great to have that leadership back in the room, and he brings a lot of experience to the table for the young guys and any new guy who are going to play this year,” Klein said. “I think it’s awesome to have him back in the room, and he is a great asset to the team.”
Probably the happiest person to see him return is his position coach.
“Vince has worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he can play football at a high level, which he has done a few years here at Temple,” Tripodi said. “We certainly expect him to continue at that level.”
With the new NCAA rule that will allow fall sports athletes not to lose eligibility next year, Picozzi was asked if he would consider returning.
Right now, he’s not looking that far ahead. His goal would be to hear his name in the NFL draft. For now, he’s just happy to be back, leading the way along the offensive line.