July 20, 2011

Tech searching for new leaders

Leadership is a skill that everyone is capable of but often times a role people are not up for accepting.

When you're playing a sport like college football, however, there comes a time in a career that you must become some form of leader to continue having a functional program.

Leadership might have been a problem at Texas Tech in the recent past and it's something junior free safety D.J. Johnson and others have been trying to figure out and improve on since capping off an 8-5 record last season.

"I know when I was a freshman when someone was getting on me and then all of a sudden I see them doing not what they were supposed to do it was kind of like a slap in the face," Johnson said. "I'm not going to listen to you, you know what I mean? With us being a young defense, we don't want to be those seniors, we don't want to be those seniors who go up and say 'do it for the seniors.'

"All of a sudden now they want to work hard when they've had two or three years. We're trying to implement that with the freshmen that are just coming in and let them know that it starts now. You have to start talking about it from the start."

Johnson will be part of a secondary that will have no starting seniors. It's a position group that needs someone to look up to and Johnson hopes he can be that player for them and the rest of the squad.

"I know that most people that encounter me respect me," Johnson said. "When I talk to them they don't take it in one ear and out the other because when I say something I try to say it in a way that they understand it… I tell them that it takes work. I know how people think and I know if y'all see me talking about it and telling you to run these (sprints) but I'm always in last that you're not going to respect me. That's going to make you think that I don't work hard.

"In order for you to respect me, it makes me work harder because I'm trying to be a leader. It's working out pretty good."

Johnson equates leadership with earning respect.

That poses the question of how you earn respect inside the Tech locker room.

"You can talk about it all you want to but if your actions don't say the same thing you're not going to gain respect," Johnson said. "That's one of my main things. I have to act it out and have to be this person where if I'm not working hard then I have no right to talk to you.

"If I'm not achieving at the level I think I should, if I'm too fatigued or something like that, for whatever reason I'm not at the level I'm supposed to be at I'm not going to be telling others what to do. I'll encourage but I'm not going to get on you if I can't do it. You'll respect me more and say 'D.J., he's trying but he's not getting on me because he understands how I feel right now.' I try to be more of an encourager."

Johnson said most of the defense's leadership comes from the linebacker corps. Cqulin Hubert and Sam Fehoko are the most outspoken players.

"They both work really hard as well as talking about it," Johnson said. "With that being the case, we don't exactly need more leaders but we need people that set the right example. We have a lot of people that don't even talk but work hard. You know just by their demeanor that they mean business if they do say something."

The thought that working hard equates to some form of non-verbal leadership recurs in talking to other Red Raiders. But when you have someone like Fehoko who can both set and example and have the gift of talking, you get a natural leader.

Having a small handful of leaders might be better than the situation Tech found itself in last season.

"It was more that there were too many leaders, I want to say," Fehoko said. "There was not enough hard work that was put behind the leadership so I want to say this year there's a major difference because our leaders on this year's team have earned it. (Strength coach) Joe Walker definitely sees that. He makes it known every day how hard we're working and if we're not working hard he'll tell us."

Working hard was Fehoko's foot in the door to a leadership position but there's more to how he perceives his role than that.

"When I inherited this leadership position, to me, it was more like me taking care of my team instead of me trying to lead my team," Fehoko said. "I want my team to be the most successful on the field. It's not about telling my teammates what to do or how to play but it's just guidance and support to whatever support they might need."

Offensively, anyone that follows Tech football will be please to know first-year starting junior quarterback Seth Doege has assumed a more vocal role.

"We do have some guys that will step up and say some really good things when we need to hear them the most," receiver Alex Torres said. "I think Doege's taken a really good role of saying what he needs to say and keeping his leadership role up. He's doing a good job of coaching up these younger guys as well as stepping in and getting us back on the same page when we're not performing up to our standards. He's done a real good job with that.

"Eric Stephens is another one who's stepped up and said a few words every time he needs to. Whether is be for positive reasons or negative reasons, there's just been times that we had such a good workout and such good work done that these guys will step out and encourage everyone and show their appreciation for what everyone's been doing."

Hard work is respected on the offensive side of the ball as well.

"The biggest thing is that everyone that has said something has been accountable on their end by leading by example," Torres said. "I think that's the biggest thing because it's easy to preach and tell these younger guys what needs to be done and stuff like that but if you're not doing it yourself they're not going to listen. That's one thing I really appreciate. Everyone's stepping up exactly when they need to."

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