JUST OVER three decades ago, Temple's Paul Palmer set 23 school records, four NCAA records and tied another. His 1,866 rushing yards as a senior in 1986 was the ninth-highest Division I total at the time. His 4,895 career yards ranked sixth-best. The 2,633 all-purpose yards in his final season broke the previous mark set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen.
Palmer finished with the most rushing yards in consecutive games (588), three straight games (775) and four in a row (987). Those records are now held by Heisman winners Ricky Williams and Barry Sanders. His 417 all-purpose yards against East Carolina in the first of those games equalled a record. The rushing portion of that (349) came within eight of matching one more.
He finished second to Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde for both the Heisman and Maxwell Award in 1986.
"The best pound-for-pound running back," said his coach, Bruce Arians.
So is he worthy of being in the College Football Hall of Fame?
"I don't really know how that works or what goes into it," said Palmer, who has made it onto the ballot (approximately 75 FBS players) every year since 2012. "It was always kind of in my mind . . .
"Based on numbers, if you kind of look at the competition I played, I think I absolutely should be in."
There's a story as to how he got to this point in the process.
"I was in Connecticut," Palmer recalled. "Walter Camp has an All-America team, and they invite their alumni back every on anniversaries. It was the 25th for my class. So Keith Jackson (Oklahoma tight end) was there, and we're having a conversation. And he mentions the Hall of Fame. And I told him I wasn't in. He said, 'What do you mean?' I'm like, 'Dude, I'm not.' So he says he's going to take care of it. And he gives (his coach) Barry (Switzer) a call. A couple of months later I was on the ballot. I'm telling you that's the God's honest truth.
"Keith is like a brother. We hung with each other the most. Cris Carter, Jerome Brown, Cornelius Bennett. There were others. Shane Conlan, Rod Woodson. It was a pretty good team . . . People would ask me about (the Hall). You get to a certain age where you just think it's not going to happen.
"There are guys in the Hall that have won the Heisman that I had better numbers than. The year that Bo (Jackson) won (1985) he was third in the nation in rushing yards per game. Lorenzo White was one. I was two. I'd compare my last two years in college to almost anyone. But that was a long time ago. Maybe they just forget. At some point you accept it. But look at what I'd done, and who it was against."
It was a different era. A Big East football conference was still five years away. In 1985 the Owls played at No. 11 Penn State in Week 2 and lost by two. Then they hosted No. 13 Brigham Young, the defending national champions, and again lost by a deuce. In the 10th game the following season they went to No. 11 Alabama and lost by 10.
"That's what makes it more impressive," said Arians, who just used the Arizona Cardinals first-round pick in the NFL draft to take Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, a walk-on who was coached by Palmer, an assistant at South Jersey's Haddon Heights High School. "One year I think we played like eight teams that were in the top 20 in defense. And he still had some legendary games.
"People who know him will tell me, 'Oh by God yeah, what a great player.' You see who's going in the Hall every year and you'll go, 'Where's Paul Palmer?' We didn't run the option. He was running up the middle. The field wasn't all spread out. You think of smaller backs (he was 5-10, 180 pounds). He played a big-back role. And there was no doubt (opponents) were trying to stop him.
"I think it hurts that some people today might not know. But when you're runner-up for the Maxwell and Heisman, it speaks for itself."
No Temple player is in the Hall. Maxwell-winning quarterback Steve Joachim (1974) and offensive lineman Bill Singletary (whose 64 is the only Owl football number retired) were first nominated for consideration by the university last year. Guard John Rienstra, who blocked for Palmer, was nominated this year as well. Three Temple coaches - Ray Morrison, Pop Warner and Wayne Hardin - are enshrined.
The National Football Foundation, which oversees the process, has a list of criteria that includes being a solid citizen in the community. Check.
"He was someone I could always lean on throughout the journey I had," said Reddick. "When I didn't know what was next for me, he'd push me to just keep going. He's really one of a kind. Outside of my parents, he's been the most influential person in my life. Whenever I saw him it brightened my day. You know, there goes 'Boo Boo.' He was the one who kept on me to seize the opportunity.
"We looked at him as a super hero. For a long time he pretty much was Temple football history."
Palmer, who was nicknamed after the sidekick character from the Yogi Bear cartoon, is the Owls' radio analyst. He works as a teacher's aid, in a "one-on-one" program for autistic children. For a time, the Maryland native's records were expunged after it was found he had signed with an agent before his eligibility had expired. They were later reinstated, though in the media guide it does still have the 1986 team going 0-11 instead of 6-5.
"People move on," he said. "Maybe if I'd won the Heisman, or the Maxwell, people would look at me a little differently. I just wish they would take a deeper look. But you have to live in the now. It's still possible, as long as I'm on the ballot. So at least I have that.
"A lot of people probably never saw me play. It's not like today, where almost every game is on TV. Things were a lot more regionalized back then. I think they see my name and go, 'He had a pretty good career.' Every now and then someone will say, to me, 'Weren't you the second runner-up in the Heisman?' No, I was the runner-up. The second runner-up is third place.
"One year I got the (ballot) and skimmed through the running backs I knew of. And I was like, 'No way. Who's that? Wait, who's THAT?' You see some names that jump out at you. OK, this person or that person. But it's tough. I guess I'm as guilty as anyone else, really. Sometimes you identify with the names that are fresh in your minds. Or the ones that went on to have a great pro career . . . But I had my time. And it was up there."
The 2018 ballot will be announced on June 1. An NFF spokeswoman said it means something that Palmer has remained on it for five years, even though that doesn't ensure anything. There's also a committee, called the Honors Court and chaired by Archie Griffin, that goes over the qualifications of each candidate. Palmer once received enough support from that group to bypass the regional screening the following year, no minor detail.
Yet he's still waiting. And that might never change.
Neither will the numbers. Or the memories.
"At this point in my life it would mean a lot," said Palmer, a first-round pick (No. 19 by Kansas City) who played for three NFL teams in as many seasons. "Not just for me. There were a lot of people that were there with me. They're accomplishments we can all enjoy, and feel proud of. Not one second in my life did I ever think I did anything by myself. Everyone else put in the same amount of work as I did. I was the product of what they did for me."
One day, maybe it will even get them the ultimate recognition. Which of course would be unforgettable.