With the nomination of team captains completed, the team turned to fill the seats for the program's leadership council. Those players were selected on Tuesday.
"On the offensive line Travis Bright, at tight end Dennis Pitta, at running back Fui Vakapuna, at receiver there were two in Austin Collie and Mike Reed, and at quarterback Max Hall," Mendenhall said, listing the players selected to the leadership council. "On the defensive line Jan Jorgensen, Matt Bauman at inside linebacker, David Nixon at outside linebacker, Kellen Fowler at defensive back and Mitch Pain as the specialist. They were put into place and announced to the team yesterday and had their first meeting last night. I feel good about the leadership there."
A player is selected from every position group on the team. As members of the leadership council, they now have a greater say in team development, the roles of players, and the unique program activities that separate the Cougars from any college program in the country.
"We have a great leadership council this year," said Nixon. "We just got picked yesterday and the council is basically the same as it was last year. We're going to be solid as always and there are so many great leaders on this team. That's one of the best things about this team, is that there are so many solid leaders on this team that it really works out to be a great thing."
With about 75 percent of the team comprised of returned missionaries that have spent two years learning organizational skills, scheduling activities, and developing personal and leadership responsibility, among many other things, Coach Mendenhall has taken advantage of this wealth of individual personal grown and incorporated as a team feature within his own program.
"One of the unique components of our team and program is the leadership council and team captains," Nixon said. "Turning team ownership over to the players on the team really puts pride in our team. Once we take ownership and take pride in our team is when we really go forward. This becomes our team and we have a say in how things are done."
"It really provides a unique aspect of what our football program is all about. You have so many return missionaries and so many leaders that, with that component, it's a great thing. You have a lot of guys that know what it is like to be a leader out in the mission field, and they bring those same characteristics and qualities back here and can apply them to the football field. I think that is one aspect that makes our team a great team."
However, the responsibilities of the leadership council and the team captains vary in regards to expectations and team influence.
"[With] the captains you have a little more team ownership of the team," Nixon said. "[With] the leadership council you have responsibility over your position, but as a team captain you're helping and overseeing the whole team. There isn't too much of a difference. We're just out there to basically help the guys, push them and help them get better."
Although the team leaders have responsibility and a say in the development of the overall team, Coach Mendenhall has the final say. Still, the players play a greater role in their program than most college football players do in theirs.
"Coach has the overall say," said Nixon with a chuckle. "He's kind of like the president of the organization. He gives us ownership of the team and team meetings. He lets us take care of the big brother programs, and [that] is something that is really important to us as players, [and we also take care of] organizing team firesides that we have before games, and there are lots and lots of programs such [as those]. We have service programs and academic programs that we have to take care of. There's lot of stuff that we as players are responsible for within this program. It's a key component of our program to take part in team ownership and really try to push it forward as much as we can to help build the program and players."