Rob Rolle was feeling good at the one-day prospect camp held at Temple University between his junior and senior years of high school.
The Delsea High (N.J.) standout looked sharp and was encouraged that he did enough to convince the Temple coaches that he deserved a scholarship.
But then ….
“I remember they were pretty close to offering me and at the end of the camp they told me they were gonna take another look at me throughout my senior year,” Rolle said. “I put that as a chip on my shoulder that they didn’t have faith in me like other schools did.”
Rolle ended up accepting an offer from nearby Villanova and, for the first time in his college career, will get a chance to face Temple as the Wildcats and Owls collide Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field (3:30 p.m, ESPN3).
“Going into this game,” the senior safety said, “I’m gonna prove I very much deserve to be on the field with those boys.
“When I didn’t get the offer, it was like, ‘Alright, they passed on me, so I gotta go prove them wrong.’”
Rolle, a preseason All-American and one of the Wildcats’ captains, has more reasons to feel extra motivation heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Growing up in South Jersey, he played against a few Temple players, including senior wide receiver Adonis Jennings, senior defensive back Sean Chandler and redshirt sophomore defensive back Kareem Ali.
But he says he hasn’t been doing much trash talk with those guys leading up to the contest. Instead, he’s been in the ear of his current teammates, imploring them not to be intimidated playing up a level against an FBS program.
“I’m fully going into this game expecting to win, as I’m sure they are,” said Rolle, who led the FCS with seven interceptions last season. “The key is getting guys on my team as prepared as possible and making sure they have the same mindset.”
While Temple will be a significant favorite, Rolle’s confidence is not unwarranted. Villanova — an FCS power that opened its 2017 campaign under first-year head coach Mark Ferrante with a 38-35 win over Lehigh last week — has kept it close vs. FBS schools in the past, losing by a combined six points in losses to UConn and Syracuse in Rolle’s first two seasons.
And although Villanova was blown out by Temple in their last two meetings in 2011 and 2012, the Wildcats actually won the game in 2009, 27-24, and lost by one score in 2010, 31-24.
“Temple is a great program and we know they’re coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons, so we’re not knocking them,” Rolle said. “But we’re a pretty solid team in FCS play and we play in the toughest league in 1-AA. We see teams from our league play big FBS teams and give them a run for their money. We know the talent our league has, and we know we can take care of business.
“We’ll be fighting against a greater depth chart but if we bring our ‘A’ game, if we play physical and show up, we’ll be right in the ballgame.”
While playing against some old South Jersey guys may give it the feel “of a high school game,” the venue certainly will not, as Rolle is fired up to play inside the Linc for the first time.
He’s been to games there before, though, cheering on former Villanova teammate and fellow South Jersey native Austin Medley during past Temple-Villanova Mayor’s Cup contests.
Now, the star playmaker who had two defensive touchdowns last year is trying to picture stepping on the field and making a big defensive play inside the pro football stadium, against the team that almost wanted him, for the team that helped develop him into a star.
“That’s something we really like,” Rolle said of playing at the Linc. “I prefer that to playing at home any day. I don’t care if it’s on the road or not. I just like playing in front of that many people.”
“We’re really pumped,” he added. “We try to take each week as it is but I’d be lying to you if I said we weren’t a little more hyped to play a hometown rival.”