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Temple football coach Stan Drayton is ready to make the most of his first head coaching opportunity

PHILADELPHIA — After 14 jobs in 10 states, two decades of moving trucks and three years of living away from his family, Stan Drayton finally got the calling he had spent his entire career chasing.

In December, Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson offered Drayton the job of the school’s next head coach. Months later, as he sat in his office, 51-year-old Stan Drayton couldn’t quite quantify how he felt when his life’s work finally gave him the opportunity of a life.

Instead, Drayton’s emotions welled up inside him as he searched for the right words.

“It wasn’t like we were jumping up and down, it was like we just finished running a marathon, and you’re happy that you won the marathon, but you don’t jump up and down afterwards. been about 20 miles, you see what I mean? You’re just a little, you’re satisfied…”

Drayton stops here to collect himself. Tears stream down his face as he continues.

“For someone to sit there and say you’re Temple’s new head football coach, it was kind of emotional, but the emotions weren’t coming out. It was just… I don’t know, man. “

When Drayton makes his debut as Temple’s coach on Friday at Duke (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network and ESPN App), it marks the culmination of a circuitous path through the NFL (Green Bay and Chicago) and everywhere. in college, from Penn and Villanova in Florida and Tennessee. Drayton has been around so long that Urban Meyer has hired him four times, from Bowling Green, Fla. (twice) and retained him at Ohio State.

Drayton, who has served as an associate head coach at Texas for the past five years, said he hopes his journey and struggle to find a head coach can inspire other coaches navigating their way into the profession. .

“I think he’s going to crush it,” former Texas coach Tom Herman said. “After all these years of hard work, it’s great to see him get such a good job with great people like Arthur Johnson. I know what a great program Temple can be in the AAC, and I know that this will be under Stan.”

Drayton’s path to becoming a head coach has come full circle. He recalls his first head coaching interview for the Temple job when Matt Rhule picked it up in 2013. He recounts the other interviews over the years – FAU, ODU, Northern Illinois, Akron and, finally, Temple again.

There were times when Drayton felt discouraged. Times when it felt like a token interview. And all those accumulated scars helped him realize that he had finally found the perfect job for him. Drayton said he would advise young black coaches to “stay in the fight” and be diligent about working behind the scenes when the opportunity arises.

“I wasn’t going to try to be anything I wasn’t going to try to get a job,” he said. “I just wasn’t. And maybe that’s why it took me so long, and I don’t know if it will be an end result to win football games or not, but I feel comfortable to be able to walk into this place, walk around the Temple campus every day and say that I haven’t hesitated – not even an inch – of who I am as a person and what I believe as a man.”

Drayton’s career has been built on connections, drive and a style that is always demanding but never demeaning. He has coached everyone from Brian Westbrook at Villanova to Bijan Robinson in Texas, Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State to Jerious Norwood at Mississippi State. He won national titles as an assistant coach at both Florida State and Ohio State, and won another as a player at Allegheny Division III in 1990 , where he is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

Where Drayton coached, results and rookies followed. The same goes for loyalty, as Elliott immediately phoned — “all for the coach” — to talk about the post coach who recruited him to Ohio State. As Elliott reflects on his career, he considers himself lucky to have had a coach so early on who demanded the job details.

“I’m happy for him, but I’m also happy for those Temple players,” Elliott told ESPN. “They’re getting a great coach and leader who’s going to be relatable and keep them at a high level.”

The last job of Drayton’s 14 career saves may have been the toughest for him personally. Nearly two years after accepting the job in Texas in 2017, he has also been going through a difficult phase for his family.

Both of Drayton’s daughters are elite gymnasts. Amari, who is a senior in high school, is committed to competing at LSU and has competed in the Olympic trials. Younger sister Anaya, a sophomore, projects herself as a gymnast of similar caliber. Drayton obtained a NIL education through the opportunities of his daughters.

To get the best training, that meant Drayton’s wife, Monique, and her daughters moved to the Houston area to train at the famed World Champions Center in Spring, Texas, which is owned by Simone Biles’ family. The Drayton girls are home-schooled while they train.

“It was a tough decision for our family.” said Monica. “It was a business decision made for our daughters at an early age. It was tough on our family. Lots of tears and prayers.”

It turned Drayton into a “commuter coach,” starting in 2019, as he and his family traveled back and forth to be together when the schedule permitted. Drayton’s main recruiting area was Houston, so he lived there during recruiting times and traveled back and forth. But there were plenty of miles on the road – a few flat tires and cracked windshields as scars from the journey.

There was satisfaction in seeing her daughters flourish and a greater appreciation for the time they were able to spend together. Now that he’s in Philadelphia, Monique said the girls practice during the week in Houston and then the three travel to Philadelphia most weekends. Drayton jokes that being a gymnastics dad isn’t that different from being a football coach, because there’s a powerlessness to watch.

“It’s hectic, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “It’s hard to watch, you know what I mean? But I’m extremely proud of my girls, man, I understand the job they’ve done. The discipline, the structure that has to be in place to be good – as good as They are. That piece I’m extremely proud of. I know there are life skills that they learn that they will keep forever.

And even when they were apart, the Drayton family prioritizes time together. Even now that he’s at the Temple, there’s a family FaceTime every morning at 7 a.m. He said part of the reward for the family’s sacrifice is when he sees them in the morning in their Temple sweatshirts, getting ready to hit the gym to do what they love.

“And we’re just refocusing our attention on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Drayton said. “I’m just trying to pray to figure it out. And just to pray that we can inspire other people who are going through the same thing because it can tear a family apart if you’re weak. You had to find something that would keep us together strong together, so for us that was the power of prayer, man.”

The best window into Drayton’s vision of what Temple can become comes from his sincere respect for Temple’s past.

Drayton takes over at Temple after the program went from conference champion Rhule in 2016 to a punching bag that went 4-15 in Rod Carey’s last two seasons. After Al Golden resurrects Temple from its days of Big East banishment into a respected program, Drayton is in charge of the latest resurrection.

Drayton’s vision for channeling that past includes wisely maintaining the tradition Golden started in 2009, where Temple’s toughest players wear single-digit uniform numbers. This has long epitomized the type of player that has allowed Temple to thrive in recent years – Rock Ya-Sin, Haason Reddick and Muhammad Wilkerson.

“NFL scouts, man, they know what it’s like to be in single digits,” Drayton said. “I mean, if you’re single digit here, they’ve been in the NFL. That’s what it is. They’re tough guys, they’re picked by their teammates, they live and do it all. is fine both on and off the pitch. And they just hold people accountable. It’s a gritty mindset… It needs to stay in the program, no doubt.

At first, Drayton’s biggest task was connectivity and motivation following a 3-9 season. Drayton has brought in a veteran staff that includes veteran offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf (Oregon State and Nebraska), defensive coordinator DJ Eliot (Colorado, Kentucky and Kansas) and special teams coach Adam Scheier (Rutgers, Texas Tech and Wake Forest).

He also insisted on giving players a voice, allowing his coaches to be family-oriented and motivating through connection. This helped create its own unique culture, which will fit into Temple’s tenacity story.

“We work, but they can be real dads, real husbands, real people,” he said of his staff. “I force them, to the best of my ability, to have a balance, and it’s coming from the top down now. This is Arthur telling me, here at Temple, make sure your coaches are well taken care of and their families are well taken care of and that they are balanced. It was ordered.”

All of those moves, all of those systems, and all of the coaches have prepared Drayton for this moment. And his style will reflect that.

“The thing I think about with the greats I’ve been around is that he cares deeply about the player, not just the helmet,” Meyer said. “His energy on the pitch is contagious. He’s a leader.”