Building Leadership

PINEHURST, N.C. – While summer school is over and the start of the fall semester is still a month away, members of North Carolina's newly established leadership committee are attending class regularly on Wednesday afternoons.

UNC head coach Butch Davis created a leadership council during his time at Miami in the late-90s and planned to start one when he first arrived in Chapel Hill, but the unique roster dynamic of underclassmen saturating the starting lineup could have poisoned the leadership well.

After the NCAA investigation took center stage, Davis instituted his plan to build a leadership committee from the ground up following the 2010 season. If only one player was initially deserving of an appointment, then only player would make up the leadership committee. But there are currently 16 players on staff, including a member from all nine position groups, as well as representation from the special teams and walk-on groups.

The selection process was not simply the coaching staff sitting around a table and selecting players they thought would be a good fit.

"We wanted to get input from our trainer, from our strength and conditioning coach, from the people that run the academic support center – when we're not around, who do you see that takes responsibility to the UNC Children's Hospital?" Davis told reporters at the ACC Football Kickoff on Monday. "They volunteer, they show up every week whether anybody ever asked them to. There's a lot of ways that you can be a positive leader on a football team and it isn't just always tackles and sacks and touchdowns."

Left guard Jonathan Cooper and defensive tackle Tydreke Powell were part of the original 13 appointees, but that group quickly realized that several of their teammates had been left off the list.

"Within about three weeks they came to me and said, ‘Coach, there's three guys right now that we think should be on this,'" Davis said. "They said, ‘These guys are absolutely killing it behind the scenes as far as encouraging guys to go to class and encouraging guys to work out, to make good decisions on-campus and off-campus.' That's the thing that you want. You want them to appoint guys."

A variety of guests attend and speak during the weekly Wednesday meetings. While a member of the Carolina Leadership Academy typically leads the proceedings, sometimes Davis joins in the discussion as well as other noted leaders, such as Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy.

The first course focused on laying the foundation for leadership.

"It was basically [about] what being a leader is and learning about some leaders from the past and their philosophies and things of that nature," Cooper said. "And now it's talking about what we've seen going on and how we're applying the leadership process and how it's coming along. It's kind of a forum almost – just discuss what you see and work on it and get better at it."

Players can earn nominations from the leadership committee by doing the right thing and showing leadership capabilities. Davis charged the council with being strict in their decisions to extend invitations.

"If you as a leadership committee believe that these guys represent what you want this football program to represent, [then] I hope you come with 30 more names," Davis said. "And hopefully as the season goes along, we'll add more potentially each week or every other week."

Powell stressed that there's more required in earning an invite just being on your best behavior.

"It's not just to keep guys from doing the wrong thing, it's to get people to join the committee and to do the right thing," Powell said. "By the end of the year, we hope we have 50 guys in there. So we're just trying to get guys to fall in and do the right thing, get in the film room, study, go out and throw passes, run, just things like that."

For Cooper, the experience has been enlightening and it has helped improve team unity in tackling potential discipline problems.

"I feel like I was a guy who led by example," Cooper said. "I wasn't timid, but I just didn't really speak out. Now I feel like I'm able to confront people more and I'm more vocal with my leadership. I'm able to find support from the guys who are in the leadership group when I do go after somebody, whereas there was a lot more resistance in the past."

The results are already evident. Instead of one or two players leading offseason workouts, a guiding hand emerged from various directions to promote hard work, discipline and a winning mentality.

Davis's goal is to eventually have everybody on the team in the leadership committee.

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