Temple makes another strong showing in the NFL draft

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Haason Reddick holds his jersey after getting selected by the Arizona Cardinals 13th during the 2017 NFL draft.

Shortly after he had become the fourth first-round draft choice in Temple history, linebacker Haason Reddick was puffing out his chest about the Owls program in his first news conference as a pro football player.

Speaking at the NFL draft Thursday night after he was taken 13th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, Reddick discussed the impact on the Temple program.

"It means something special is really going on at Temple," he said. "I would advise people to open their eyes and watch what is going on."

The professional scouts surely have been doing that.

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For the second year in a row and seventh time in school history, Temple had three players selected in the draft. On Saturday night, six other Owls signed as NFL free agents.

Temple finished 10-4 for the second straight season and won the American Athletic Conference championship. Things are on a roll for the program, with former coach Matt Rhule laying a strong foundation. Now new coach Geoff Collins will take advantage of the draft success when he hits the recruiting trail.

Reddick's success will be at the forefront, but having the draft in Philadelphia and so many other Temple players with NFL opportunities is something Collins will certainly mention to potential recruits.

"One hundred percent," Collins said. "To have our biggest stars on the biggest stage represent Temple, I think it was huge for the entire program and entire city."

For the second time in school history, the Owls had players selected in the first two rounds of the same draft. Offensive lineman Dion Dawkins was a second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills. In 2011, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was selected in the first round by the New York Jets and defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett was drafted in the second round by the Eagles.

Also in this draft, Temple cornerback Nate Hairston was selected in the fifth round by the Indianapolis Colts.

"I think this shows what direction this program is going," Hairston said in a phone interview. "From winning the division [in 2015] to winning the conference the next year, sending four guys to the combine, having three guys drafted, it shows the success of the program."

Signing rookie free-agent contracts on Saturday were Owls linebacker Avery Williams (Houston Texans), tight ends Colin Thompson and Romond Deloatch (New York Giants), quarterback Phillip Walker (Indianapolis Colts), running back Jahad Thomas (Dallas Cowboys), and defensive end Praise Martin Oguike (Miami Dolphins).

"It's a great program and a lot of people are stepping up and this is going to keep happening at Temple," said Walker, who won a record 28 games as the Owls' starting QB.

Next year, Temple is expected to have several draft prospects, possibly led by Camden graduate Sean Chandler, a senior safety. "I think next year we could have the same number of guys drafted, if not more," Hairston said.

Rhule, the new head coach at Baylor, was as proud as anybody this weekend. He came to the draft to support the Temple players.

"The NFL knows how hard-nosed the Temple players are, how hard they practice," Rhule said. "These are truly Temple tough players and it is why kids in the area will want to come to Temple."

'Nova and Penn

Two Villanova players were drafted, and linebacker Austin Calitro signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jets. Villanova defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon was taken in the second round by Kansas City and offensive tackle Brad Seaton was a seventh-round pick by the Tennessee Titans.

"The Titans and Texans both had [Seaton] in for visits," Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. "It's definitely a good fit. His best years are ahead of him."

Penn quarterback Alex Torgersen signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. Over 140 seasons of Penn Football, no one has thrown more passing touchdowns (52) or accounted for more total offense (7,937 yards) than Torgersen.

"The Falcons are one of the elite franchises in the NFL and are getting a proven winner who is ready to continue his development and join his former teammates who are already playing on Sundays in the NFL," Penn coach Ray Priore said.

Staff writer Mike Kern contributed to this story.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

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