WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — Toughness isn’t a trait that only resides within the confines of Philadelphia — it stretches nationwide, and is embraced by scores of people with a variety of different backgrounds.
But the roots of toughness may originate back to Philadelphia after all. At least that was the case for Georgia native Geoff Collins.
The new Temple football head coach, who has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal worth approximately $2 million per season, was formally introduced to the media at the Liacouras Center on Wednesday, and wasted no time in mentioning his first encounter with the concept of toughness that also associated with Philadelphia’s hockey team.
“I don’t know if anybody here remembers the Omni (Coliseum) where the Atlanta Flames played. Whenever the Flyers were in town, I’m five, six, seven-years-old, I had to see the ‘Broad St. Bullies,'” Collins said. “At a young age, I was drawn to the physicality, the toughness, the ‘never-say-die’ which I think is Philly, which I think is us. The way these young men play is kind of reminiscent of what I fell in love with watching the Flyers as a young kid. Toughness. That’s what this place is all about.”
Collins comes to Philadelphia after spending the last two seasons as the University of Florida’s defensive coordinator, where the 45-year-old helped the Gators reach back-to-back SEC Championship games with two top-ten nationally-ranked defenses. But Collins’ newest role will be to navigate Temple to even greater heights and stature as the defending American Athletic Conference champions and winners of 10 games in consecutive seasons.
“It’s a dream come true for me to become a head football coach,” Collins said. “We will compete for championships, we will provide a world-class student-athlete experience and education, and we will represent the community with pride.
“One of the best things is you have to know your past. What has gotten us to this point where we’re successful, what has gotten us here. And then — I talked to the guys about this earlier — I want to meet with every single person in that building because there’s three things that every person in that building really loves. I don’t know what they are. There’s three things that every person in that building thinks needs to be improved. The one thing that the guys have to know is how much the coach loves them.”
Geoff Collins has arrived. pic.twitter.com/MoF2CRBCHU
— Tom Hanslin (@tomhanslin) December 14, 2016
Temple athletic director Patrick Kraft admitted that the searching process for a new head coach was strenuous, as the program’s top priority was to find the right coach — a person who will make sure Temple’s identity never deviates from its current mold.
“We would not waver on character,” Kraft said. “I wanted a real good coach. I wanted someone who knows how to win. Someone who’s been through winning and seen the process, someone that understands what it takes to win at the highest level. I wanted someone that wanted this job. Didn’t want a job. Wanted Temple’s job. And we found it in Geoff.”
Over a 48-hour span since the news broke, Collins recalls seeing more than 400 text messages from people who were sending their best wishes and compliments. But he also noticed several messages from people who want to be involved with his new regime.
“I think the majority of (texts) were, ‘Congratulations, I want to be a part of it,'” Collins said. “And I don’t think it’s all because of me. I think it’s because of what this university represents, the job that has been done with facilities, support, and they see on the field how these kids play and they want to be a part of it. They want to be a part of what’s going on here.”
But the transition for Collins won’t be as simple as it appears. In a conference like the American, which has been perceived as a stepping stone to elite programs, the challenges will come with recruiting, as a long-term stay for a coach seems ambiguous. But Collins stresses pride in finding the right players, and is more so focused on “right now” and the team’s mantra of ‘What’s Next.’
“I think relationships, being a good person, being relentless, knowing the university, knowing the program and what you’re selling is everything in recruiting,” Collins said. “People who are successful at recruiting do those things, regardless of region, regardless of area, and I’m just excited to sell this brand.
“We have a geographical advantage where we can get (players) on campus, their parents, coaches, mentors, whoever it may be and build those relationships at an early age. They’re going to develop, they’re going to flourish, and they’re going to get their degree.”
As for the remainder of this season, Collins hasn’t concluded whether or not he will be on the sideline for Florida’s matchup with Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, but he made sure he’ll be in attendance for Temple’s date with Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis.
“I’m committed to helping further the process,” Collins. “This is the right job for me. The way things have been built here fits my personality and fits my coaching style. We’re on the same page. We’re excited about all the challenges going forward, and it’s just an exciting day to be an Owl.”
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.