Norristown gradaimsfor memorable finalseason
At the top of Anthony Robey’s bio in Temple’s 2014 football media guide is an icon of a graduation cap and diploma. Among the career tidbits that follow is one that reveals he is one of only three players on this season’s roster who participated in the Owls’ most recent bowl game, a New Mexico Bowl victory over Wyoming following the 2011 season.
As a redshirt senior athletically and a graduate student academically, Robey has experienced a lot on and off the field at Temple. Still, as he prepares for his final season wearing the cherry and white, there is much unfinished business to tend to.
While the Owls displayed promise as last season moved along, they spent much of the off-season seeking to remove the stench left from a 2-10 campaign that yielded plenty of heartbreak. Temple lost seven games by 10 points or less, four of which were decided by no more than three points. On three occasions the Owls lost in the final half minute. A common theme of the late-game collapses was the defense’s inability to finish the task.
“It is something that we worked on during the spring and during (off-season) workouts,” said Robey, who says he is close to 100-percent in recovering from a groin injury. “Finishing is something that we have preached and it is something that we will continue to work on during summer camp.”
With 28 career starts to his credit, much of the responsibility for getting that straightened out falls on the shoulders of the former Norristown High standout. That is especially the case given the secondary has only one other player that has started at the major-college level. That player, junior corner Tavon Young, has started only eight games.
“What we need from Anthony is for him to step up and make plays,” said Temple football coach Matt Rhule. “We have gone from a team that was, ‘Hey, we need to hang in there’ to a team that now at the end of
Signing Day in February because he had not yet met the NCAA’s initial eligibility standards.
The Owls, perNCAArules, could only sign 25 players that day and the staff explained to Patton that it would have to wait to see how things played out over the rest of his senior year to find out if they could bring him in this month or in January of 2015.
So over the next five months, Patton improved his grades and his SAT score by 110 points, gaining the exact 10 points he needed the second time around in May. And when he was visiting his mother a few weeks ago, they got the call they were waiting for
Temple tight ends coach Ed Foley was on the other end with the news that the Owls had a scholarship available for him and that he would be able to join the team in time for preseason camp.
He wouldn’t have to wait. He wouldn’t have to walk on or enroll at a prep school. Everything, finally, had come together.
At Temple, Patton joins a trio of former Norristown football players in wide receiver Brandon Shippen and defensive backs Anthony Robey and Ikeem Boyd, one of his closest friends.
“They’re like a second family along with the team, and it’s great,” Patton said after Temple’s Monday morning preseason practice. “I’m here now, and it’s time to go to work.”
That was Patton’s mentality last fall. In the midst of an 0-11 season for the Eagles, Patton stood out because he was willing to play anywhere at any time even when things were not going well. On defense, the 6-foot5, 230-pound Patton forced eight fumbles and collected four fumble recoveries and five sacks. He played quarterback and even some running back, too.
“It reached a point where he’s such a good athlete that on offense, we moved him to tailback,” Patton’s former coach at Norristown, E.J. Smith, said. “And then on defense, he played defensive end and against some fronts, we’d move him to linebacker. We struggled and our main goal was to just try to win football games and he was willing to do whatever it took to win.”
The wins never came, but Patton’s film stood out to Rhule and the Temple staff. And now he has a shot at the Owls’ tight end competition that, at least for now, has no clear front-runner.
But it almost never turned out that way.
When Patton returned to Norristown at this time last year to live with his grandparents, Robert and Sheilah Wright, he had fallen out of love with football and instead was more focused on basketball.
But some 11th-hour urging from his teammate, Rashon Lusane, convinced Patton to give football a try once again.
“Rashon said, ‘Bro, you might as well come out for football,’” Patton recalled, “and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Then I thought, ‘I might as well.’ I went to camp and it started from there.”
And it wasn’t long before Patton stood out to his coaches.
“It was during our scrimmage against West Chester East,” Smith said. “He was playing defensive end. They had a good offensive tackle and the young man couldn’t block him at all. All the technique with ripping, clubbing and swimming — he put all that into play.”
Now Patton will have much more to learn — a new offense, the nuances of becoming a college student and everything that comes with it. And Patton said Temple defensive line coach Elijah Robinson told him he could come over to the other side of the ball if he’s interested in becoming a pass rusher again.
He could end up playing this year or redshirting. Either way, he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“I’ve called Rashon every day after training camp and tell him what’s going on,” Patton said, “and I thank him. If I had just kept going to basketball, who knows where I’d be.”
And Patton talks to his mother just about every day, too — sometimes just to update her on what’s going on or other times just to tell her he misses her. She’s raised him as a single mother and the two left Norristown to move to the Atlanta area when Patton was in second grade.
Allowing her son to return home last summer wasn’t easy for Wright, but she’s grateful for how everything worked out.
“I was very sad because he’s my only son,” Wright said. “It’s just been me and him for so many years. It’s been hard. It’s been challenging. He’s been in three different schools and had so much transition. But Kip is just an awesome kid and no matter what situation you put him in, he just goes after it and succeeds.
“When he got up there at first, it was ‘Mom, I just want to concentrate on basketball right. Then it was, ‘OK, Mom. They keep asking me and asking me to come over to play football. I think I’ll just try working out with them.’ And the next thing I knew, every time I turned around, he was in the newspaper.”
And Patton’s name would have been in the paper again back in February had he signed his national letter-ofintent then. Like anyone else, Patton said, he would have enjoyed all the notoriety that comes with that moment.
“But,” Patton added, “I think I needed that, to be completely honest with you. I needed to see other people signing with the school I was going to so I could pull myself together and get things together. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think I’d be here right now.” a game is, ‘Hey, who will make the play?’ As a senior we are hoping that Anthony can do that for us.”
When asked about being by far the most experienced player in the secondary, Robey viewed the collective youth and inexperience around him in a positive light because of the competition that will continue to play out in preseason practice.
“When younger players come along the more the competition amps up, so that gets all of us going,” he said. “All the players are helping each other, so it is good that they have come along because we need them. They will just continue to grow as they go through their careers.”
Robey has gone through his career playing for three head coaches and in three different conferences. That is pretty hard to do especially when considering he has remained with the same program. It underscores how the landscape of Temple football and col- lege football in general has shifted dramatically the last few years. Robey redshirted in 2010 in Al Golden’s final season as coach and with the Owls residing in the MidAmerica Conference. Robey then played two seasons under Steve Addazio, 2011 in the MAC and 2012 in the Big East, before Rhule took over last season with Temple being part of the newly-former American Athletic Conference.
“One thought that goes through my head and that it is crazy how fast it has all gone by,” he said. “You can’t take anything for granted and you need to take advantage of everything you can.”
Robey, who will turn 23 in September, has certainly taken advantage of the academic opportunities at Temple. En route to completing his undergraduate studies in criminal justice he earned various honors for his work in the classroom, including being a two-time member of his conference’s academic team.
“Anthony is an intelligent person that already graduated and is a grown man with the way he carries himself and the way he handles everything,” Rhule said. “That in and of itself is invaluable to the young guys coming in. They say to themselves this is what Temple football is all about because they see Anthony is a good player and a good person who has done a lot off the field.”
Robey, who in the fall semester will have a full load of graduate courses in Adult Organizational Development and wants to ultimately pursue a career in law enforcement, likes what he sees as he enters his final season as a Temple football player.
“We just need to build on what we started in the spring,” he said of what was an encouraging few weeks of spring drills. “I think we look good and we just need to continue to compete and continue to get better.”
Temple kicks off its season Thursday night Aug. 28 at Vanderbilt. The first home game is Sept. 6 versus Navy.
Gladwyne resident Greg Stefan Jr. (age 45) and his daughter Nicole (age 17) successfully defended their title in the Father-Daughter Race at the recent Independence Day Regatta in Philadelphia.