The Temple Owls have a long history in college football, but it has been mostly years of turmoil. The program has been around since 1894, and while they have been successful as of late, they sport a losing record of 455-574-52 (.445), and currently have no players in the College Football Hall of Fame.
That should not be the case, however. Former Owls running back Paul Palmer deserves to be there.
Palmer was an integral part of Bruce Arian’s offense in his four seasons in Philadelphia, setting 23 school records and four NCAA records at the time. He still owns the school record for rushing yards (4,895), and his 1985 and ‘86 seasons still rank as the top two single-season records. He also sports three of the top six single-game efforts in program history.
His senior season is why he should be in the discussion to join the exclusive club. Palmer was a unanimous All-American selection in 1986 after leading the country with 1,866 rushing yards as a senior, which was ninth-best in Division I history at that time. He also led the country in yards from scrimmage (1,976) and his 2,633 all-purpose yards broke the previous record set by Marcus Allen.
He finished second in both the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award balloting. Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde won both honors that season.
The one knock on Palmer is the decision to hire an agent during that season, violating NCAA rules. Then-president Peter Liacouras stripped his personal records and six wins from the 1986 season as a result. However, his numbers speak for themselves. He should be the first Owls’ player to be inducted into the Hall.
While Temple has no players in the Hall, three coaches - Wayne Hardin, Ray Morrison and Pop Warner - have been inducted. Palmer has been on the ballot since 2012, and recently told Philly.com he believes he should be there:
"There are guys in the Hall that have won the Heisman that I had better numbers than. The year that Bo (Jackson) won (1985) he was third in the nation in rushing yards per game. Lorenzo White was one. I was two. I'd compare my last two years in college to almost anyone. But that was a long time ago. Maybe they just forget. At some point you accept it. But look at what I'd done, and who it was against."
"A lot of people probably never saw me play. It's not like today, where almost every game is on TV. Things were a lot more regionalized back then. I think they see my name and go, 'He had a pretty good career.' Every now and then someone will say, to me, 'Weren't you the second runner-up in the Heisman?' No, I was the runner-up. The second runner-up is third place.
"One year I got the (ballot) and skimmed through the running backs I knew of. And I was like, 'No way. Who's that? Wait, who's THAT?' You see some names that jump out at you. OK, this person or that person. But it's tough. I guess I'm as guilty as anyone else, really. Sometimes you identify with the names that are fresh in your minds. Or the ones that went on to have a great pro career . . . But I had my time. And it was up there."
You cannot argue with just about everything he said. Temple has never been a powerhouse that has garnered much national attention. Palmer was drafted No. 19 by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1987 NFL Draft, but would only play three seasons in the league with as many teams. He never had the hype around him like many of college football’s stars of the past.
We also cannot count him out because he hired an agent. It would be the same thing as saying that Reggie Bush does not deserve to be there. Both were electrifying players on the field, regardless of what happened with agents.
Will Palmer ever make it to the museum for college football’s best? That remains to be seen. You can take his statistics out of record books, but those who witnessed Palmer in action know he was one of the greatest running backs in college football history.