Leadership is crucial for any team, program or organization to be successful. Many young players don’t fully understand what it takes to be an effective captain or leader, and that’s why Missouri Football Head Coach Gary Pinkel entrusts his seniors with that responsibility.
“The seniors are kind of sacred here,” Pinkel says. When you become a senior in January of your junior year, all of the other seniors are gone, and now it’s kind of your team.”
And the seniors embrace that role. They’ve been here for three years, and they know how the program is run. They know what the coaches expect, and what it takes to win at the highest level of college football.
Because they’ve paid their dues and shown a full commitment to the Tiger football program, Coach Pinkel trusts them to share information and ideas that they think will contribute to the team’s success. They are in constant communication about what they can do to bring the team closer together and create a family atmosphere.
“It’s very difficult in any organization to reach your highest goals if you’re not close, if you’re not a family, not a team,” Pinkel says.
To help achieve that closeness, Pinkel hosts family senior dinners at his home a few times throughout the season. At these family gatherings, coach talks to his players about topics such as the upcoming game, strategy, the week of practice and his expectations of them as leaders. In addition, the seniors get to give their feedback on anything that they think is relevant to the team’s success moving forward.
Last year, the Tigers had a great senior class led by the likes of Elvis Fisher, Kendial Lawrence, T.J. Moe, Zaviar Gooden, Will Ebner, Kip Edwards and Kenronte Walker. Aside from the their obvious contributions on the field – the touchdown catches, first down runs, interceptions and sacks – to name a few, the aforementioned players were the unmistaken leaders off the field. Whenever an underclassman needed guidance or whenever the coaches needed to get a point across, it was those seven guys that they turned to. Whether it was vocally or by example, the 2012 senior class led the way for Mizzou.
Now it’s up to this year’s seniors, led by James Franklin, Andrew Wilson, L’Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and E.J. Gaines, to take the reins, because according to Coach Pinkel, they have a tradition and duty to uphold.
“That leadership is real important to our program,” Pinkel says. “When you’re at Missouri, and you’re a senior, we really hold you accountable as leaders of our team.”