We don’t have sports, I spent a solid hour today watching a dog agility competition, and to be honest that will probably be a post for another day. We do, however, have NFL free agency news, mostly dominated by Tom Brady taking his TB12 to TB, so not the best. I don’t need to remind you what is currently dominating the headlines, but I will say, we could all use an uplifting story not surrounding masks and tests.
When the XFL began, many hoped for better results than the previous attempts at professional football not named the NFL. Well, like every other sport, the season was cut short. The XFL definitely made an impression in its inaugural, short season, but more importantly, P.J. Walker, quarterback of the Houston Roughnecks became the first player to sign with an NFL team. Walker was electric in 5 games, going 5-0 while leading the league in passing yards (1,338) and TD passes (15), quickly catching the eye of NFL teams…
I hadn’t thought about P.J. Walker in years, but when I did, his Temple playing days came rushing back to me. The New Jersey native played at Temple from 2013-2016, but he really excelled in 2015 and 2016 posting back to back 10-win seasons under a young, up and coming head coach Matt Rhule. The pair set records at Temple, Walker still being Temple’s all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total offensive yards with 11,100 yards. To cap off an amazing career at Temple, a program that had been through years of misery followed by hope, then misery again, Walker led Temple to the American Conference Championship in 2016, where he was named Most Outstanding Player of the game. Walker went undrafted but caught on with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, where he bounced between the active roster and practice squad before finally being released. Walker took his chance with the XFL and it has finally landed him on the NFL roster of a familiar face…
Matt Rhule was on the staff at Temple University from 2006-2011 before a quick stint as the assistant offensive line coach for the NY Giants in 2012. Rhule was an institution at Temple, so when then-head coach Steve Addazio was recruited away to Boston College, he was a natural next choice. The program had seen success under the previous two head coaches, Al Golden and Addazio, each ending with the coach leaving for greener pastures. Rhule felt different, he was a Temple lifer. He signed an extension to stay at Temple for 4 more years following the 2015 season, and a season later re-negotiating that deal to stay after being courted by bigger programs such as Missouri. The feeling was Rhule loved Philadelphia, he loved Temple, and he was going to take this program to places where Golden and Addazio never stuck around to see. But it didn’t take long after winning a conference championship for the big schools to come knocking once again. Sure, he could say no to Mizzou, but when Baylor finally fired Art Briles on the heels of one of the worst college football scandals to date, Rhule was the perfect choice and for him, it was a dream job. Rhule departed to the dismay of Philadelphians, but you couldn’t deny feeling somewhat happy for a guy that dedicated himself so whole-heartedly to bettering the football program from North Philly.
Rhule did what we all knew he would, he turned that dysfunctional embarrassment of a program it had become into the titan it once was in Texas, the hotbed of high school football talent. The story with Rhule seemed to be the same every year, will he or won’t he leave, this time for the NFL. After one season, Rhule assured everyone he was staying in Waco to turn his program into a perennial powerhouse. After a stellar year 2, he said the same, but we all knew the inevitable was coming, our bigger concern was, he better not become the coach of the NY Giants! Lucky for us, Rhule accepted the head coaching job for the Carolina Panthers, so now we don’t have to hate him!
One of Rhule’s first big moves as Panthers HC was hiring offensive guru from LSU, Joe Brady. The next, hitching his head coaching life to QB Teddy Bridgewater, a former starter for the Vikings turned backup for the Saints after a gruesome leg injury he suffered in 2016. Cam Newton was out, 2019 starter Kyle Allen was also jettisoned because Rhule had more big moves, this time signing his former star QB, P.J. Walker.
How badly did the #Panthers want QB P.J. Walker after he lit up the XFL? Source says they gave Walker a two-year, $1.565 million contract that includes a $150,000 signing bonus and a $25,000 workout bonus next year. Nice deal for a street free agent.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 24, 2020
The perfect full-circle moment for the guys from North Broad Street reuniting years after lifting the Temple University football program to new heights. What can these two do together in Carolina? Only time will tell, but it feels like a classic Philadelphia story in the making and it warms my heart during these dark times.