Leading by example

When Dayne Crist committed to the Jayhawks in December, it would have been so easy for the hoopla surrounding his arrival to rub his new teammates the wrong way. Instead, his hard work and humble attitude helped them embrace him - and eventually earned him a captaincy. With the start of the 2012 season just a couple of days away, Crist and the Jayhawks are hoping to make a splash.

Dayne Crist is a smart young man.

That's an observation one can make after spending just a few minutes with him, but plenty of evidence is provided by outside sources as well. Take the story of his official visit to Kansas in mid-December, as told by former and now current head coach Charlie Weis.

The relationship between Crist and Weis is well-documented. Weis recruited him successfully to South Bend, Ind. during his tenure as head coach of the Fighting Irish, despite the presence of prep wunderkind Jimmy Clausen just a year ahead of Crist on the eligibility clock. The two share a strong bond and speak of it freely.

So when Crist set foot on campus, he wasn't as interested in hearing a new sales pitch from Weis. Instead, he spent the vast majority of his time with those who would be protecting him, should he choose to become a Jayhawk - the offensive line.

"Shows you he's a very intelligent young man because he wanted to know whether or nto he thought that the offensive line would give him an opportunity," Weis said.

Fast forward seven months, and not only is Crist a Jayhawk, he's a team captain. It's a unique situation that on the surface could have so easily gone wrong.

Think about it for a minute. Former five-star, all-everything quarterback recruit decides to leave one of the most tradition-rich and celebrated football programs in the country to come to Kansas, where the football program has won a collective one conference game in the past two seasons.

His commitment threw the fan base into a frenzy, particularly as it was followed by the commitment of former BYU standout Jake Heaps, and helped revitalize the immediate hopes for Kansas football. He was the definition of a very big fish being thrown into what had become a very small pond - a situation practically built to engineer resentment among the current members of the team.

Only things didn't work that way. Crist didn't put on airs. He didn't act any differently. Instead, he was just one of the guys. He embraced his new teammates and they embraced him, and when he put his head down and got to work during the off-season, they naturally followed suit.

"He just stepped up," said linebacker and fellow team captain Toben Opurum. "He didn't act like he was better than everybody. He just meshed with the players really well at first, and when it was his opportunity to step up and lead he did so."

Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, the third member of the 2012 team captain triumvirate, recalled his first meeting with Crist. The quarterback sat down with the three senior returning starters on the line, Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik, and the group quickly discovered they were all on the same page.

"We kind of just sat down and went over our goals and said 'Hey, this is our senior year, this is your senior year,'" Hawkinson said. "'Obviously, you're transferring for a reason. You want to be able to go out on a high note during your senior year.' We all really had the same mindset that this is the last year to do everything we can to start a new legacy here with Coach Weis, and we were all on the same page with that."

Summer workouts are over and the first leg of the journey toward that new legacy is complete. Now it's time to get it done on the field, and the Jayhawks expect big improvement over the past two seasons - even if nobody outside of their locker room feels the same.

But maybe this time they've got the right people in place to lead them to that success.

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