As the Temple Owls lined up on their own 35 last Saturday, they were staring down the length of the field on the brink of defeat. No one was sure of where the ball was heading. In the past, it most certainly would have found its way into the hands of stud receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick. After four years of filling the highlight reels with acrobatic catches while reeling in touchdown after touchdown, P.J. Walker’s favorite weapon would have to be replaced. Now, Walker may have found his man in John Christopher.
The redshirt senior’s game against UMass may well have been his coming out party. Christopher hauled in two clutch passes on 3rd downs to keep that game winning drive alive. The second, coming on a late 3rd & 6, was a tip toe, sideline grab to move the Owls closer to the uprights, and stop the clock. The grab was an incredible display of skill and concentration. He finished with a career high seven catches that totaled 72 yards. An impressive performance on paper, when it came down to the wire, he was even more stellar. Five of those catches resulted in 3rd down conversions for the Temple offense. Christopher was the one keeping drives alive all afternoon.
Christopher stands only 5’11, which causes him to constantly take hard hits and be thrown to the turf. His grit is not without reward, however. Donning the #7 jersey, Christopher’s single digits have him recognized by the team as one of the toughest players. This speaks volumes about a wide receiver that has averaged less than two catches per game during the course of his career. Also, the Florida native has never been a feature wideout. As a redshirt sophomore, he was the long snapper on punts and played in all the coverage units. Those roles are not glorified by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not what he’s all about. Christopher is a worker, and is always ready when that number is called.
When the Temple’s thrilling victory over UMass is recalled, the casual Temple fan will not remember Christopher’s name. He didn’t catch a touchdown, kick the game-winning goal, or return a blocked extra point all the way back. Yet, he certainly does not unnoticed around the team however. “John Christopher was a hero tonight out there. He played his tail off tonight…I thought PJ went to him and he made the play when the play was there to be made and that made the kick even easier,” said Coach Matt Rhule following the contest. While he is not always in the limelight, Christopher has fought hard to arrive here today. Donning that #7 was no coincidence. He’s come a long way, from being the undersized freshman covering kickoffs, to beginning to pay dividends, especially when it matters most.
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