You wonder if Geoff Collins knows exactly what he’s getting into.
Matt Rhule did.
It was a dark and bitterly cold Sunday night after a long, hard week. Christmas loomed just two days away. Most 36-year-old fathers with young families and good jobs were nestled in cozy nooks, looking forward to a full week of disconnection.
Matt Rhule wasn’t like most fathers. He had a program to sell.
He bounded out of the 16th street entrance of the CBS3 studios like he’d just sprinted over from spring football practice. Six days earlier Rhule, an Owls assistant for six years, returned to Temple as the head football coach after a one-year stint as a Giants assistant. He exuded good will and energy. He was scheduled to record a short interview, the last of three guests that night. He handed out business cards with his Twitter handle imprinted on them. The guest quickly “followed” him and, within minutes, he was touting his impending appearance.
The guests looked at each other and agreed: They had to stay and watch this guy’s act.
Except, it was no act. It was just Rhule, a New York hustler who walked on at Penn State. He spread the gospel of Temple football on Twitter and on TV and anywhere else he happened to be; he’d stand on the corner on a milk crate with a megaphone and brag about his guys being #TempleTUFF, if that’s what it took.
That’s what it took.
That’s what it still takes if you want to make Temple football relevant in Philadelphia.
Rhule is a wonderful coach, as accomplished on offense as he was on defense. He hires well and delegates brilliantly. Baylor is blessed to have him.
He also spent four years in tireless promotion, in shameless brand-building, constantly selling his product to whoever would listen. That helped recruiting, and, so, he won.
He grew a flower in a crack of the sidewalk.
Can Collins do the same?
In Collins, 45, Temple is set to hire a strong football mind with considerable pedigree. He just finished two seasons as Florida’s defensive coordinator, approximately the same job he did for four years at Mississippi State. He held administrative and recruiting positions at Alabama and Georgia Tech.
But can he sell the un-sellable? Can he make the Owls relevant while the Eagles play?
Can this lifelong Southern man, who was born in Georgia and who made his football bones in Florida and North Carolina, recruit the Northeast?
Can he sell the Northeast in the South?
Can anyone do what Matt Rhule did?
Temple football supporters might take solace in the knowledge that they got Rhule’s former boss when the both worked right here in Pennsylvania.
In 1997 and 1998, Collins was defensive coordinator at Albright College in Reading, Pa. Collins’ linebackers coach: Matt Rhule.
Collins and Rhule also landed at Western Carolina together in 2002. Rhule was the linebackers coach the first three seasons; offensive line coach his last season, 2005; and ran the special teams all four seasons. Collins was the defensive coordinator in all four years; however, Rhule also was assistant head coach from 2003-2005, which raises questions about who held what authority.
Regardless, the pair worked on the same staffs for five of their formative years. Maybe some of Rhule’s magic wore off.
Certainly, Temple vetted Collins through Rhule.
Clearly, Rhule endorsed Collins.
Hopefully, Rhule stressed to Collins how crucial it is to be so much more than just a coach at Temple.