PHILADELPHIA -- After 14 jobs in 10 states, two decades of moving trucks and three years living away from his family, Stan Drayton finally got the call he'd spent his entire career chasing.
In December, Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson offered Drayton the job as the school's next head coach. Months later, while in his office, the 51-year-old Stan Drayton couldn't quite quantify how he felt the moment when his life's work finally yielded him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Instead, Drayton's emotions welled up inside of him as he searched for the right words.
"It wasn't like we were jumping up and down, it was like we just got done running a marathon, and you're happy you won the marathon but you aren't jumping up and down after running 20-something miles, you know what I mean? You're just kinda, you're satisfied..."
Drayton pauses here to collect himself. Tears stream down his face as he continues.
"For somebody to sit there and say that you're the new head football coach at Temple, it was a little bit emotional, but the emotions weren't coming out. It was just... I don't know, man."
When Drayton debuts as Temple's coach on Friday at Duke (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network and ESPN App), it marks the culmination of a circuitous path through the NFL (Green Bay and Chicago) and all over college, from Penn and Villanova to Florida and Tennessee. Drayton has been around so long that Urban Meyer hired him four different times, at Bowling Green, Florida (twice) and retained him at Ohio State.
Drayton, who was the associate head coach at Texas for the past five years, said he hopes his journey and struggle to get a head coach can offer inspiration to other coaches grinding their way through the profession.
"I think he's going to crush it," former Texas coach Tom Herman said. "After all those years of hard work, it's great to see him get such a good job with great people like Arthur Johnson. I know what a good program Temple can be in the AAC, and I know that it will be under Stan."
Drayton's path to break through to becoming a head coach has come full circle. He recalls his first head coach interview for the Temple job when Matt Rhule got it back in 2013. He rattles off the other interviews over the years -- FAU, ODU, Northern Illinois, Akron and, finally, Temple again.
There were times Drayton felt discouraged. Times where he felt as if he was a token interview. And all those accumulated scars helped him realize he ended up at the perfect job for him. Drayton said he'd advise young Black coaches to "stay in the fight" and be diligent in working behind the scenes for when opportunity arises.
"I wasn't going to try to be something that I wasn't to try to get a job," he said. "I just wasn't. And maybe that's why it took me so long, and I don't know if that's gonna be an end result in winning football games or not, but I feel comfortable that I can walk into this place, walk on Temple's campus every single day and say that I have not wavered -- not even an inch -- from who I am as a person and what I believe in as a man."
Drayton's career has been made through connections, motivation and a style that's always demanding but never demeaning. He coached everyone from Brian Westbrook at Villanova to Bijan Robinson at Texas, Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State to Jerious Norwood at Mississippi State. He's won national titles as an assistant coach at both Florida and Ohio State, and won another as a player at Division III Allegheny in 1990, where he's in the school's Hall of Fame.
Where Drayton has coached, results and recruits have followed. So has loyalty, as Elliott got on the phone immediately -- "anything for Coach" -- to talk about the position coach who recruited him at Ohio State. As Elliott reflects on his career, he considers himself lucky that he had a coach so early on that demanded the details of the position.
"I'm happy for him, but I'm also happy for those players at Temple," Elliott told ESPN. "They're getting a great coach and leader who is going to be relatable and hold them to a high standard."
The final job of Drayton's 14 career stops may have been the toughest on him personally. Nearly two years after he accepted the Texas job in 2017, he also embraced a difficult phase for his family.
Both of Drayton's daughters are elite gymnasts. Amari, who is a senior in high school, is committed to compete at LSU and participated in the Olympic Trials. Younger sister Anaya, a sophomore, projects as a similar caliber gymnast. Drayton has gotten an NIL education through his daughters' opportunities.
To get the best training, that meant Drayton's wife, Monique, and daughters moved to the Houston area to train at the renowned World Champions Centre in Spring, Texas, which is owned by the family of Simone Biles. The Drayton daughters are home schooled while they train.
"It was a tough decision for our family." Monique said. "It was a business decision made for our daughters at an early age. It was tough on our family. Lots of tears and prayer."
That turned Drayton into a "commuter coach," starting in 2019, as he and his family hauled back-and-forth to be together when the schedule allowed. Drayton's primary recruiting area was Houston, so he'd live there during recruiting periods and fly in and out. But there was plenty of miles logged on the road -- a few flat tires and cracked windshields as scars of the journey.
There's been satisfaction in watching his girls thrive, and a greater appreciation for the time they've been able to spend together. Now that he's in Philadelphia, Monique said the girls train during the week in Houston and then the three of them travel to Philadelphia nearly every weekend. Drayton jokes that being a gymnastics dad isn't all that different than being a football coach, as there's a helplessness in watching.
"It's agitating, to be quite honest with you," he said. "It's hard to watch, you know what I mean? But I'm extremely proud of my girls, man, understand the work that they put in. The discipline, the structure that needs to take place to be good -- as good as they are. That piece right there I'm extremely proud of. I know there's some life skills that they're learning that they'll carry forever."
And even when they were apart, the Drayton family prioritizes time together. Even now that he's at Temple, there's a family FaceTime every morning at 7. He said part of the reward for the family's sacrifice is when he sees them in the morning in their Temple sweatshirts, getting ready to go to the gym to do what they love.
"And we just re-center our focus on what we're doing and why we're doing it," Drayton said. "Just trying to pray for the understanding of it. And just praying that we can inspire others that are experiencing the same thing, because this can tear up a family if you're weak. You had to find something that was gonna keep us tied strong together, so for us, it was the power in prayer, man."
The best window into Drayton's vision of what Temple can become stems from his sincere respect for Temple's past.
Drayton takes over at Temple after the program spiraled from Rhule's conference champion in 2016 to a punching bag that went 4-15 in Rod Carey's final two seasons. After Al Golden resurrected Temple from its days of Big East banishment to turn it into a respected program, Drayton is in charge of the latest resurrection.
Drayton's vision channeling that past includes wisely keeping the tradition that Golden started in 2009 where Temple's toughest players wear single-digit uniform numbers. That's long epitomized the type of player who has allowed Temple to thrive in recent years -- Rock Ya-Sin, Haason Reddick and Muhammad Wilkerson.
"The NFL scouts, man, they know what it is to be a single-digit," Drayton said. "I mean, if you're a single-digit around here, they've been in the NFL. That's what it's been. They're tough-minded dudes, they're picked by their teammates, they're living and doing everything right both on and off the field. And they're just holding people accountable. It's a gritty mindset...That's gotta stay within the program, no question."
Early on, Drayton's biggest task was connectivity and motivation in the wake of a 3-9 season. Drayton brought in a veteran staff that includes veteran offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Danny Langsdorf (Oregon State and Nebraska), defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot (Colorado, Kentucky and Kansas) and special teams coach Adam Scheier (Rutgers, Texas Tech and Wake Forest).
He's also stressed giving the players a voice, allowing his coaches to be family-driven and motivating through connection. That's helped create his own unique culture, which will mesh with Temple's history of toughness.
"We're putting in work, but they're able to be real fathers, real husbands, real people," he said of his staff. "I'm forcing them, to the best of my ability, to have balance, and that's coming from the top-down now. That's Arthur telling me like, here at Temple, make sure that your coaches are well taken care of and their families are well taken care of and that they have balance.' That was commanded."
All those moves, all those systems and all the coaches have prepared Drayton for this moment. And his style will reflect that.
"The thing that I think of with the great ones I've been around is that he cares deeply for the player, not just the helmet," Meyer said. "His energy on the field is contagious. He's a leader of men."