MIAMI - Raheem Brock remembers playing against Virginia Tech and its star quarterback, Michael Vick.
"We were all over Vick's highlight tape," the defensive lineman said, grinning at the sort of dubious achievement typical of Temple football.
Dan Klecko remembers the Owls playing right here, against the University of Miami.
"They beat us 62-0 [actually 55-0], I think it was," Klecko said. "That was my freshman year, and I remember wondering what I got myself into."
For Jason McKie, the opponents were the whole point of playing at Temple.
"We would play against top-notch teams every week," said McKie, a fullback. "That would bring the scouts out, so you would hope that you might have a breakout game and get noticed."
They share their stories without a trace of bitterness or unhappiness. Rather, the three Temple Owls in this year's Super Bowl feel a special pride in having made NFL careers for themselves after playing for perhaps the most unusually challenged Division I-A college program in the country.
"That uphill fight drew us all close together," said Bobby Wallace, who coached all three of the Super Bowl Owls at Temple. "Dealing with the adversity, with the facilities, with the threat over your head of the football program being dropped - we always stayed positive through that. It made the experience better in some ways."
Brock, Klecko and McKie were on a 2-9 Temple team in 1999, but led the team to relatively strong 4-7 records the next two seasons.
Wallace left Temple in 2005 when his contract expired after eight seasons. He is now the head coach at West Alabama, a Division II program. He may not have found the magic formula for turning Temple into a powerhouse, but his program has more players in this Super Bowl than any except Syracuse and Florida, which have four each.
There are more Temple players on the Colts' and Bears' active rosters than players from Notre Dame, USC, Texas or Oklahoma.
"That's huge," said Klecko, who already has two Super Bowl rings from his time with the New England Patriots. "Who would have thought that? Everybody makes fun of Temple."
You don't get from North Broad Street to football's biggest stage without a struggle, and each of the three has a tale to tell. The two starters got here after a stop in South Philadelphia, at the NovaCare Complex.
Brock was the Eagles' seventh-round draft pick in 2002, and the team signed his good friend McKie as an undrafted free agent. Here were a couple of Temple kids going to work a subway ride from campus.
"It was great," Brock said. "For a minute."
That's because Brock, who went to Dobbins Tech, and McKie were gone within a few months, but not for the usual reason of not being good enough.
Brock was an academically ineligible tight end when Wallace was hired in 1997. Over the next few years, the coach would see Brock work himself into a defensive player and a fine student.
"We moved him to defense, and he was just terrible," Wallace said. "Because he didn't want to do it. Then he saw he wasn't going to get playing time, and he worked himself into a very good player. Raheem needed 18 [credit] hours to maintain his senior eligibility, and I have to tell you, he worked harder academically than any kid I've been around to do it."
The Eagles ran into a strange problem the year they drafted Brock. Because they had two second-round picks, Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown, they decided to use their rookie pool money in such a way that left nothing for Brock. They released him, and he signed with the Colts.
"Tony Dungy had just gotten there, and I liked the way things looked," Brock said. "Their defense was like the one we ran at Temple. With the Eagles, there was a lot of two-gap [technique] and blitzing. It was hard because I got to camp late. I played on special teams, and, by the beginning of the season, I was starting at end. Things happen for a reason, I guess."
Wallace had recruited McKie as an option fullback. A year later, Temple changed its offense, and McKie's role was marginalized.
"He really is the perfect option fullback," Wallace said. "I think he could have been a star. To his credit, he never complained, and he played really well for us."
The Eagles liked McKie and kept him on their practice squad. Dallas signed him, then waived him the next year. The Bears claimed him, and he has played offense and special teams for them for four seasons, finally earning the starting fullback job this season.
As for Klecko, he was the classic Temple football player, and not just because his father, Joe, played there before his outstanding career with the New York Jets.
"Danny was and is a little undersized," Wallace said, "but he's a terrific player, a guy whose motor is always going. All three of those guys, I think, Temple was their only Division I opportunity."
"Temple gets good football players," McKie said. "I think the success of guys in the NFL proves that."
"It's depth," Klecko said. "Temple gets some good players, just not enough to compete with some of the programs we had to compete with."
Klecko is proud of his two rings. If nothing else, they provoke mock insults from his father, who never won one.
"He called me a little jerk," Klecko said, beaming.
But this Super Bowl means more because Klecko is expected to play. He was on injured reserve when the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers and inactive for the win over the Eagles two years ago. This year, he will play defense and could see action on offense. Two weeks ago, Klecko caught a touchdown pass in the AFC championship game against his former New England teammates.
"This just feels more special," Klecko said.
Brock and McKie, who may collide a few times Sunday, feel the same. The close friends immediately talked on the phone after their conference championship games. After playing together in front of a few thousand fans at the Vet, after getting a taste of what it would be like to play for the hometown Eagles, after overcoming long odds to land starting jobs, now they will represent their teams and their families and, yes, Temple in the Super Bowl.
"Jason and I talked a little trash," Brock said. "When that kickoff comes, it's going to be great. I'm excited for him. With Klecko here . . . this is going to be great for Temple. To have three guys in the Super Bowl, that's big."
"Somebody from Temple," Wallace said, "is going to get a ring."
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