Dick Vermeil tells Owls to embrace hard work

The Temple players were captivated by the speaker after practice. He didn't talk for long, but he made quite an impression.

Coach Matt Rhule frequently has people who have enjoyed success in football talk to his team, and he scored a touchdown by inviting Dick Vermeil, who guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl and won a Super Bowl as coach of the St. Louis Rams.

"That was amazing, a Super Bowl-winning coach," said senior linebacker Avery Williams.

The 79-year-old Vermeil left a message about the rewards for hard work.

"A big thing I took from him, he was talking about coming off the field, and your body hurt, you had a headache, [say] 'Thank you, Coach,' " Williams said. "All that hard work, it is not your enemy. It is your friend."

Vermeil even made an impression on Rhule.

"He said the only limitation in life is your height, and that is the only thing you can't get better at," Rhule said. "So don't set limits for yourself, work hard, and embrace the challenge of work."

All-conference running back Jahad Thomas said he was honored that Vermeil would take the time to speak to the team.

"It is a blessing to have somebody like that you admire and wants to come watch you in practice," Thomas said.

Temple is winding down camp, and Rhule has one major question as his team prepares for its Sept. 2 opener against Army at Lincoln Financial Field.

"We're as deep a team as we have had, but I don't know if we are as tough a team yet," Rhule said. "Yet we will find out."

Rhule defined toughness as being able to overcome adversity.

"If you are losing, play better. That is what I'm referring to as tough, because these kids will hit all day," Rhule said. "I don't know if we truly embraced being a tough team. We like to win. We don't always like to compete."

So Rhule is looking for players to dig a little deeper when facing adversity on the practice field.

"Kids practice hard," he said. "It is just that competitive toughness that needs to take a step up in the next 10 days."

Camp notes

To nobody's surprise, Rhule said one of the best positions has been safety, where junior Sean Chandler and sophomore Delvon Randall appear to be the starters. Chandler started the previous two years at cornerback and could be among the best defensive players in the American Athletic Conference. . . . Cornerback is more unsettled. One potential starter, redshirt senior Nate Hairston, has been nicked up this camp and is working his way back, Rhule said. . . . Redshirt senior Romond Deloatch, who began his career as a tight end before moving to receiver, is again at tight end. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Deloatch, who had three touchdown receptions last year, is a viable red zone option. . . . Sophomore running back Jager Gardner got hurt in Saturday's scrimmage, Rhule said, but he implied that he expects him back soon. . . . Chandler, who averaged 12.1 yards per punt return, will again have that job, but Rhule isn't sure about a kick returner. He said there have been too many fumbles by kick returners in practice.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

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