UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When former Penn State linebacker Matt Rhule decided to walk on to the Nittany Lion football team, he knew that he wasn't going to be a great player.
But he knew that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle and become a football coach.
And what better way to do that than to learn firsthand from the greatest
coach in college football.
After walking on, Rhule was a member of the Penn State football program from 1994-'97, which kick-started what has become a successful career in coaching.
"While I wasn't a great football player, I knew that I wanted to be a coach," Rhule said. "For me, I made a decision to walk on at Penn State, not really for dreams or grandeur, but because I knew that I wanted to be a coach and learn from the best. And that's what I did. I learned from great assistant coaches and the greatest head coach of all time...I think down to my core, most of my philosophies are still based off of things he taught me when I was 18 or 19 years old."
Rhule, who is one of 68 Penn State graduates under Joe Paterno currently in coaching, will enter his sixth season at Temple when the 2011 season kicks off in September. Currently serving as Temple's assistant offensive coordinator, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, Rhule has coached for 13 seasons at the collegiate level.
Hailing from State College, Rhule was back in town on Friday morning for
the annual spring meeting for the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches
Association (PSFCA) at the Lasch Football Building. Rhule, Temple head coach Steve Addazio,
Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham and Coach Paterno met with the PSFCA for more
than an hour on a variety of high school football subjects.
"I think anytime you get back on campus and you see the stadium and everything great that Penn State has to offer, it is really exciting," Rhule said. "It was great to see Coach Paterno. It was great to see (Fran) Ganter and Tom Venturino and all of the great people here."
Rhule attended State College High School for the final two years of his scholastic career, and he has plenty of roots in Happy Valley.
"I met my wife here. My family lives here. There are so many memories from here," Rhule said. "I will probably leave here and take Coach Addazio over to the Creamery and have an ice cream cone. I'm lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to come back and see my family. It has been great during the last four years to come back and coach against Penn State."
While he has coached at five different institutions at the collegiate level (Albright, Buffalo, UCLA, Western Carolina and Temple), Rhule will always look back on his time in Happy Valley.
"I have such strong, fond feelings about Penn State, which most people from here do," Rhule said. "When I coached at UCLA, I used to wear my Penn State sweatshirt around Los Angeles and people would walk up to me and say, 'I went to Penn State.' I think anyone who graduated from here or walked across campus feels that way."
As a member of the Temple coaching staff, Rhule has enjoyed the opportunity to coach against his alma mater over the past few seasons.
"Coaching against Penn State is loud," Rhule joked. "It is loud, but it is such a great
atmosphere to be a part of. But the
biggest thing I would say - I am blessed to be at Temple and I love Temple and
the last two years we have played tough games at Penn State - but the class of
the Penn State fans when you walk out that visiting locker room after leaving
it all on the field and your hearts are broken and you are disappointed, the
class of the Penn State fans is great.
Both years, the fans in that end zone gave us a standing ovation. They recognize that good football is good
football and good players are good players.
That's why I love coming back to Penn State."
This season, Rhule is under the direction of new head coach Steve Addazio, who begins his career at Temple after six seasons as an assistant at Florida.
"I've been fortunate to be at five different college football programs, both sides of the country," Rhule said. "To have a chance to work for a guy like him (Addazio) has really invigorated me and made me a better coach. I have learned so much from him so quickly."
The Nittany Lions will travel to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
to take on Coach Addazio, Rhule and the Temple Owls on September 17, marking
Penn State's first road game against Temple since 2007.
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