This is what happens when your father is an English teacher with a love for literature: You get named Atticus, after the fictional character Atticus Finch in one of the all-time best books, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
But it’s OK.
It’s a cool name. And while some people, like his girlfriend, call him Atticus, his close friends just call him A.J.
Atticus Jack Templeton doesn’t care what you call him, as long as you are calling him out onto the football field.
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The senior at Kennewick High School has a lot to make up for this football season, which begins Friday for the Lions in Richland against Hanford (kickoff 7 p.m.).
After a strong sophomore season in 2016 in which he ran for 10 touchdowns and passed for another 16 as Kennewick’s quarterback, A.J. broke his ankle in the 2017 season opener against Prosser.
His season was lost.
“It was a very tough year,” said his father, Bill Templeton, who also happens to be Kennewick’s head football coach. “He almost got to come back last year against Shadle Park (in the regional playoff crossover). He was running with no pain. But on the second to last play the night before we played the game, he goofed it up again running out of bounds.”
This season, as a senior, A.J. Templeton is making up for lost time.
“I definitely feel like I have to play for two seasons,” he admitted.
When football — something you love to play with all of your heart — has been taken away, you learn to appreciate it.
“It’s one of the only sports where legally you can hit someone and not get into trouble,” said A.J., who will also play in the defensive secondary this season besides quarterbacking. “I love the strategy to it. It’s the ultimate team sport, and it feels like a brotherhood.”
He learned to love the game at an early age.
His father was a star running back in the mid-1980s for legendary coach Ed Troxel at Kennewick High. His grandfather is the equally legendary Craig Beverlin, the former longtime head coach at Kamiakin.
“We were doing throwing drills when he was 3,” said Bill Templeton.
The whole father-son dynamic with dad as head coach and son as star athlete has been handled by both with grace.
“First of all, he is just a quality person,” said Bill. “He’s fun to be around. But it’s a strange dynamic sometimes. I’ll get after him when he doesn’t do something correct with his footwork. He’s told me he calls me ‘Coach’ when he’s mad at me.”
That happens rarely now, admits A.J.
“I feel in terms of our relationship, we don’t let what happens on the field affect us,” he said. “When I was younger, I felt I had to prove myself to my teammates more than maybe I needed to. But now, we’re just teammates first.”
Sometimes time gives a better perspective.
What hasn’t changed is the son knows the football X’s and O’s like the back of his hand.
“I know the offense pretty well,” said A.J. “I know what the linemen, all receivers and running backs are supposed to be doing on each play.”
The journey to get back on the football field after a lost 2017 was too long not to savor what happens this season.
“That was really hard,” A.J. admits. “I felt I kept positive through most of it. But it was hard to watch from the sidelines, watching everyone struggle and I couldn’t be on the field with them.”
But he put in the work.
“I had a lot of rehab,” he said. “I went to Elite Ambitions Training, which helped me a lot to get through rehab. It got my strength level back to where it needed to be.”
He got his weight up to 195, and turned out for track – which helped with his speed.
He now weighs 183 pounds, which should help him break tackles when he runs.
“His progress this summer was great,” said Bill. “He loves football. He’d like to go someplace like Whitworth. But when you lose your junior season, we don’t know what that does (for recruiting interest).”
A good postseason run with his Kennewick teammates should answer that question.
DL Jagger Childs was honorable mention All-MCC last season as a sophomore. He’s 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and getting interest from Washington State and Utah already. He’s also the son of Ron Childs, a former standout at running back and linebacker at Kamiakin, then a star linebacker at WSU before playing for the Tri-Cities Fever. Ron Child’s is also an assistant coach for Kennewick High. ... OL Baylor McElroy was honorable mention All-MCC last season as a sophomore. He has a twin brother, Baiden. Both are 6-5, and Baiden weighs 250 while Baylor is 260. Both should start on the line. … Seniors Danny Schuldheisz and Izaiah Canada should anchor the O-line. … A.J. Templeton will look to seniors Manny Flores and Talon LaFontaine as his main receiving targets. … Besides Childs, the Lions will have a number of other juniors starting on defense, including FS Blaine Chavez and LB Kaleb Stevenson. “Brayden McCarley is a hard-nosed senior and linebacker,” said Bill Templeton. … Cedric Riel and Moses McAninch, standouts last season, graduated and are playing for Eastern Oregon University.