Temple was recruiting trailblazer

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: February 9, 2011 - 9:19 PM

Tony Temple was a trailblazer for high school football in the Kansas City Metro


His four years in high school made him one of the top running backs of the last 10 years. His time in college saw his Missouri Tigers reach No. 1 and Temple set the Cotton Bowl single game rushing mark.


While those are great achievements, that’s not why his time at Rockhurst changed the face of high school football. Temple’s time at Rockhurst was a sign that the landscape of high school football and more specifically high school football recruiting was changing.


Temple began his career as one of the most highly touted freshman athletes in Kansas City history. Before his freshman season was finished Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock had fired up the hype machine saying he was the best high school running back he had ever seen. High praise for a player who only started one game his freshman year on a team that would got 14-0 and win the Class 5A state title in 2000.


Before Temple arrived at Rockhurst it seemed players would only see offers from college recruiters during their senior years or sometimes after their junior years. For Temple those offers started to flood in heading into his sophomore year of high school.


“All the early offer stuff was starting about this time,” veteran Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said. “He probably had about 50 verbal offers as a sophomore. I kept telling him these are nothing more than offers and they don’t really mean anything unless you accept one of those.”


After that freshman year both Missouri and Kansas made offers to Temple. With the Whitlock article Temple was at the center of storm that at the time he didn’t even know he was in.


“The only way you can comprehend it is just looking back on it,” Temple said. “It was more crazy to other people than it was to me. Coach Sev did such a great job of being in my life, knowing what was going on, talking to me. I was totally grounded. I had no idea that it was a big deal. It was newspaper articles.


“I was like this is Rockhurst, this is what was expected but you have a job to do. Coach Sev did a great job of guarding me from all of that.”


Temple’s breakout freshman season turned into a standout sophomore year. The Hawklets would lose to Blue Springs in the state quarterfinals but Temple was primed for an explosion in his junior season. That year Temple would lead the Hawklets to a perfect 13-0 record and the Class 6 state title. At that point the recruiting war for his services were wide open.


It would be easy to look at Temple’s recruitment in the fall of 2002 through the prism of 2011. In that view Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State are all programs that have reached national prominence in the last four years but in 2002 Gary Pinkel had just finished his second year at Missouri and Mark Mangino had just finished his first at Kansas. Things at Kansas State were about the same as veteran coach Bill Snyder was running the show.


In the world of 2002, Temple had plans of leaving the Midwest and playing for major programs on the East Coast.


“After my junior year all the big time schools like Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan and Tennessee all of those offers started coming in,” Temple said. “To be honest anything in the Midwest wasn’t on my radar. I was pretty much focused on going to Florida State or Miami. I remember when Miami came to Rockhurst and Coach Sev said it was the first time since he could remember that a Miami coach had come to Rockhurst. And I was like I’m pretty sure where that’s where I want to go. That’s when it really started to open my eyes and Ok I need to start getting serious.”


Temple was as hot of a high school football property there had been in Kansas City for many years. Going into his senior year newspapers were following him around and there were huge expectations. It seemed like another huge year at Rockhurst and Temple would be the pick of the litter in the 2004 recruiting class.


Even with those expectations Temple didn’t do what so many players do today and commit to a school before his senior year. He waited and as time went on some of those more than 50 schools simply moved on and stopped calling.


Then the unexpected happened. Temple got injured his senior year and he spent more time on the sidelines than in games. He played in only three games his senior year and now the recruiting picture was starting to look a little different.


“The process was obviously with him was hampered with him with his injury,” Severino said. “That really cut his list down to one or two even as high profile as he was. Any more if you don’t commit before your senior year you better be a real, real, real special player to hold off and not commit before your senior year and think that scholarship is still going to be on the table. That is the difference now.”


After his senior year he found himself with many of the same schools that had been talking to him as a freshman. Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State were in the mix along with Michigan and Arkansas. The Arkansas recruiter called Temple every day up until the time he made his decision.


Temple would go to Missouri and be a part of a recruiting class that would eventually be ranked No. 1 in the country its senior year. That class would go 11-1 in the regular season and go to the Cotton Bowl where Temple would set the single game rushing record that had stood for more than 50 years. After college he tried the pros in both the NFL and Canada before returning to Kansas City where he is now in business.


Looking back a lot of what Temple saw is now commonplace. Players are routinely offered after their sophomore and junior seasons.  Now a lot of recruiting information is released through Facebook and Twitter. In Temple’s time Internet message boards were just beginning to become the hot thing to do. Temple’s every move was talked about on recruiting site message boards.


Temple would make his announcement on Metro Sports that let the city know he would attend Missouri. Then that was rare but now those televised announcements are commplace.


“At first when they asked me to announce on Metro Sports I was a little embarrassed,” Temple said. “Going into that day nobody knew what school I was going to choose. Even coach (Andy) Hill from Missouri didn’t know what school I was going to choose.”


In the end Temple said it was the direction of his coaches and family that helped him make it through the recruiting process.


“The focus wasn’t even doing the research on the colleges but focusing on where I was at Rockhurst,” Temple said. “It goes back to Coach Sev. He kept saying let’s just focus on one year at a time. Honestly I think that is what made me successful through the recruiting process because I didn’t focus on that. I just focused on playing football for Rockhurst.”