N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed this week's season opener against South Carolina in his…
Haley Is Temple's Best Sixth Man
When the Owls released their two-deep for next week's opener against Villanova, Haley was still listed as a shared No. 1 — only this time with junior outside linebacker Amara Kamara.
So where will Haley line up this year? Maybe the better question is where won't Haley line up?
The former walk-on, now a senior, is proficient at all three linebacker positions, plays a key role in nickel packages, and is also one of Temple's best special teams players.
"You can make the case John was our Most Valuable Player last year," Coach Al Golden said. "If I could equate it to something, it would be like the sixth man in basketball. When I was growing up, that was guys like Bobby Jones, (Michael) Cooper or Bill Walton. They didn't start, but all those guys would finish the game. And that's what John does for us.
"It's not who starts, it's who finishes, and John is a guy who will be there at the end because of his versatility, his conditioning and (because) he's a very smart player."
Moving around the defense last year, Haley finished fourth on the team with 68 tackles. He also contributed four sacks, two pass breakups, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
"Whatever my role is, I just want to fulfill my role, play as hard as I can and do what I can to help the team," Haley said. "From freshman year, I took it upon myself to learn all three positions and just be able to play whenever and wherever I could. I tried to learn from the beginning, and now going into my fourth year, it's almost second nature."
Asked if he had a preferred position, Haley couldn't pick one.
"I like all three, it doesn't matter," he noted. "They're all interchangeable. They pretty much have the same responsibilities. It's just a little bit different. I'm comfortable at any position."
Haley is also comfortable on special teams. Even as he's gone from walk-on doing anything he can to make the team to key contributor, he's tried to work his way on to as many different units as he can manage.
"I always play special teams, because it's a very important part of the game," Haley said. "It can help us win the game, so I just try to excel there too."
With Haley, Alex Joseph, Kamara and junior outside linebacker Elijah Joseph, the linebackers are one of the most experienced and decorated units on the team. Redshirt junior Jordan Martin and sophomore Tahir Whitehead — two players Golden singled out as the standouts of training camp — are also in the mix.
"We get along great, we hang out all the time, we're always together, always talking, have a lot in common and we gel on the field," Haley said. "We bring a lot to the table for each other."
As one of the seniors making up Golden's first class, Haley understands not only how far he's come in four years, but what strides the program has made in the same time frame.
"It means everything (to be a senior on this team), the time's gone by quick but at the same time it's been a long process," Haley said. "As seniors, we're trying to take this team to another level and finish this season the right way."
For John Haley, there has been no other way.
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