Terry Hoeppner has captained the IU football program's resurgence among fans in the off-season, and now Will Lumpkin wants to help spearhead the turnaround on the field.
With one final season left to play in his college football career, the Indiana Hoosier players and coaches picked Lumpkin as one of the team's four captains for the upcoming season. The fifth-year senior safety will join seniors John Pannozzo, Adam Hines and Chris Taylor as team captains.
"When I first found out I was so excited," said Lumpkin. "It's such a huge honor to be selected by your peers and your coaches. It's just a big honor for me. It has me really excited about this season."
Going into his final season as a Hoosier, the 5-10, 205-pound Lumpkin knows he has one last chance to do what he came to Indiana for.
"I've learned so much since I've gotten here on and off the field," said Lumpkin. "This last season I'm just looking to win. Really that's all any of us are here for besides what we do in the classroom. I'm going to get the degree and all that, but I want to go out a champion and that's what we're working for right now."
For Lumpkin this season is quite the oddity. As a fifth-year senior, Lumpkin is working with his third head coach at IU.
"I was recruited by Cam Cameron, played for Gerry DiNardo and now Coach Hoeppner is my third coach," said Lumpkin. "I don't want to compare one coach to another because they are all good guys, but I will say Coach Hep has brought a lot of energy to the program and he's really got guys excited to come out and practice hard every day.
"Anybody that is out here can feel that excitement. Guys have found a way to stay more motivated throughout practice. Sometimes it gets hard going through two-a-days and you have a guy like Coach Hoeppner come in and say something different each day to keep us motivated and working hard. It keeps us going."
Along with a new head coach usually comes a new position coach, something Lumpkin also has had to deal with during his playing career.
"Coach (Joe) Palcic is my third position coach," said Lumpkin, who was coached by Curt Mallory for the last three seasons. "He's a great guy and he comes from a football family. His father is a coach in the NFL and he's had a few years experience as a coach and player. He's just a great guy and he relates well to all the players. We're excited about having him with us."
Palcic, who also serves as the team's co-defensive coordinator along with Brian George, came with Hoeppner from Miami (Ohio). Palcic is just as excited to have Lumpkin as one of his leaders on the defense.
"Lumpkin has always been a leader," said Palcic. "I don't think simply naming him captain is going to change anything about him. He has been a leader on and off the field by the way he conducts himself in the classroom and in the community. He's such a good kid and hard worker and that's why he's a captain for this team.
"He has so much experience on the field and he can play both safety spots. He'll do a great job this season not only leading the secondary but leading the defense along with (linebacker) John Pannozzo."
While it may be a hard sell for a guy like Palcic to come into a program where some players are on their third head coach and nobody has had a taste of winning, Palcic says this group of guys has put it all aside for a shot at winning.
"It could be difficult if the players made it difficult," said Palcic. "But all those guys have been great. Lumpkin is part of that and he is a great leader for these young guys. He's accepted me with open arms and the only snag we had was in the spring trying to figure things out terminology wise. One of his coaches called it this way, and the one before that called it this way and now I'm calling it this way. He just needed to adjust to my terminology and he has done a good job doing that."
Now that Palcic and Lumpkin are on the same page, it can be a lot easier for Palcic's message to get to the younger players who look up to the upperclassmen and ask them for advice.
"It happens all the time on all levels whether it's right or wrong, it even happens in the NFL, but sometimes players like to listen to other players more than coaches," said Palcic.
"If you have a senior leader who can get on the same page as the coaching staff it can help out a lot. That is something Lumpkin has done and helped out a lot. Sometimes when safeties take a look at me they think ‘look at this old guy, he's chubby, he's never played the position' and they don't understand that as coaches we can relate to different positions than we played. So it helps to have a guy like Will Lumpkin on the same page as the coaches so the other players can follow him."
With the season a couple of weeks away, Lumpkin is ready to start his final journey through the Big Ten.
"The countdown is on and I can't wait to be able to get out of camp and hit somebody with a different color jersey on," said Lumpkin. "We have 11 games on our schedule and Coach Hep says each one has its own importance. Central Michigan is important because it's the first game of this season and this new era. It's going to be important for us to go out and execute and play as hard as we can."
Instead of looking back on his career and playing 2005 as a farewell tour, Lumpkin is focused on finishing his career on a strong note.
"It's funny because you can look back and remember what it was like when you first got here," said Lumpkin. "Sometimes we talk about people who have come and gone, not just coaches but guys we played with along the way. Now we have one more chance to go out as champions and that's all we're working towards."
Lumpkin Looking To Lead
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