Stan Drayton looked down at his prepared speech and took a deep breath, flooded with emotion Thursday morning after being announced as Temple’s next football coach.
Drayton’s first official address was delivered to a group of players who stood together in the back corner of the Fox-Gittis Room at the Liacouras Center.
“You’re about to see your head ball coach express some emotion already,” Drayton said. “When I am with you every single day, I’m going to try to instill that fire that I had to get to this point. You guys hear me on that? I’m going to need you to carry that flag for me.”
Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson conducted the search that landed Drayton, who will become a head coach for the first time in his 28-year career. Johnson felt comfortable with each of his primary candidates, but said Drayton stood out as they trickled into North Philadelphia for final talks.
Johnson previously worked in facilities management at Texas while Drayton served as running backs coach. Both admitted they didn’t work closely in Austin.
“I’ve spent more time with him these last two days,” Johnson said, “than we spent the entire six years that we were there together.”
When Johnson met with the team on Nov. 29 following Rod Carey’s firing, he asked players what qualities they hoped for in a new coach.
“They talked about someone who would love them,” Johnson said. “Someone who would instill discipline. Someone who cared about them and was really looking to build a family – the relationship piece.”
Johnson said he learned a lot from the open-forum meeting, which included only two other staff members.
After Drayton learned he was picked for the position, he met with players over Zoom Wednesday to discuss the direction of the program.
“You know the little bit of film I did see, I saw some quit show up,” Drayton said. “We talked about what greatness is and greatness has no quit in it at all.”
Drayton said that players accepted his criticism but also hoped to move forward.
Drayton plans to gain the trust of his players by displaying consistent character, teaching the game and building connections off the field.
“Most importantly is the connection,” Drayton said. “I have to dig into these young men’s lives way beyond the helmet and let them know how much I really do care about them.”
Less than 24 hours after Temple added three players on signing day, Drayton said he wants to stick around for the long haul and lean into recruiting in the area. While he called the portal useful “based on need,” Drayton doesn’t view it as a tool to build culture.
The night before being introduced, Drayton spoke over the phone with Matt Rhule, who coached Temple for three seasons and led the Owls to a conference championship in 2016. Rhule’s tenure, which stretched from 2013-16, is often used as a reference point for Temple success.
“I watched him closely here, take this program to good heights,” Drayton said. “He still loves Temple and wants to see this place do great things.”
The newly appointed coach expects to draw advice from Rhule, who beat him out for Temple’s open position in 2012.
Drayton’s prior connections to the area come from his playing days at Allegheny College. He then coached at both Penn (1995) and Villanova (1996-2000). He joked about living in King of Prussia and frequently making the “awful drive up the Schuylkill” into the city.
Drayton plans to live as close as possible to campus this time around.
“I want to tap into everything about [Temple]. I want to be visible,” Drayton said. “I want to be at the basketball games and the gymnastics meets. I just want this student body to see me, visible on campus.”