Juan Diego Temple knew everything his dad did was for him.
It may be hard to believe that at 250 pounds, the senior varsity lineman for JSerra Catholic High was once on the scrawny side, but he was. Living in Santa Monica during his grammar school years, Temple was often the target of bullies.
- GO HERE to vote for Juan Diego Temple in his bid to win an Inspireum Football Award.
Although not a family of opulent means, Jerry Temple moved his wife, Teresa, and young Juan Diego to San Juan Capistrano, working long hours as an installer for Verizon to make sure he could pay for Juan Diego’s private school and athletic clubs, football and volleyball.
Despite those long hours, Jerry didn’t miss a game.
Even after he was undergoing chemo.
At first, Juan Diego did not tell many people about his dad’s cancer. In February 2010, Jerry had a stomachache, and made what he thought was a routine visit to the doctor. It was ultimately discovered to be stage IV colon cancer, and it had already spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
He died two months later. He was 59.
“I sat down and asked why,” Juan Diego recalled. But the pity party did not last long.
“I asked myself what I could do to flip it instead of [complaining] 'why me,' ” he said. “I knew this happened to me for a reason.”
Juan Diego threw himself into charity work like never before. He was already one of the key organizers behind PALS, Positive Athlete Leadership Society. After Jerry passed, the club officially launched, raising funds for the poor in Uganda. Members plan to volunteer in whatever way is needed for the .
In everything he does, Juan Diego tries to emulate his dad.
“He always did things in mind of others and not in mind of himself. I try to be like that,” Juan Diego said.
He always did things in mind of others and not in mind of himself. I try to be like that.
– Juan Diego Temple, speaking of his dad, Jerry Temple
It is that attitude and resilience that catapulted Juan Diego onto the list of 12 finalists for the Inspireum Football Awards.
(Until a week or so ago, the awards were called the High School Rudy Awards, after the real-life story on which the inspirational 1993 movie Rudy was based. However, earlier this month, Daniel Ruettiger, a.k.a. “Rudy,” agreed to pay $382,866 to settle charges lodged by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he was a key participant in a so-called pump-and-dump stock scheme that generated more than $11 million in allegedly illicit profits for a now-defunct beverage company, Rudy Nutrition.)
As a finalist, Juan Diego has already won a $1,000 scholarship. The winner will receive $7,500 while four runner-ups will get $2,500. The “fan favorite” who receives the most votes from the public will receive another $1,000.
The Internet-based vote is just one component in the winner’s selection. A committee comprised of NFL superstars, including Drew Bledsoe, Troy Aikman and Shaun Alexander, will also weigh in.
The JSerra senior finds it hard to believe such high-caliber athletes – especially his idol, Aikman, will be checking him out.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
Juan Diego’s former coach, Oscar McBride, now at , nominated him.
McBride said the nomination was a "no-brainer" after watching Juan Diego "continue to honor his father's memory by doing well in school, being a leader among his peers and doing well in multiple sports."
It was McBride's first nomination of a player, but it made sense because Juan Diego embodies what the Inspireum Football Awards are all about: "A student athlete overcoming adversity and still standing for something bigger than themselves."
Juan Diego’s mom, Teresa, said her son has always been resilient. Even when he was getting bullied as a young boy.
“He would wake up in the morning and say, ‘Mom, I’m ready to go to school,’ ” she recalled.
According to the Inspireum website, the award celebrates outstanding young athletes “not because of their statistical performance, but because of their ability to inspire teammates, classmates and communities.”
But that doesn’t mean Juan Diego lacks athletic skills. Several colleges have stopped by JSerra, and he’s hoping one or more will make an offer he can’t refuse.
Juan Diego plans to major in broadcasting or communications, with a minor in Spanish.
More than sports, Jerry’s finals word of advice for Juan Diego was to go to college, and not just any college.
“We sat down once or twice and talked about what he wanted for me. He wanted me to go to a four-year college,” he said.
Teresa, facing the recent loss of her husband and the not-too-distant departure of her one and only college-bound child, said she is ready for a quiet home.
“I had [Juan Diego] not to keep him, but to prepare him for life,” she said.
Jerry felt the same way.
“He would be very, very, very, very proud of [Juan Diego]. I know it.”