Leadership Qualities

When head coach Chris Davidson came to La Plata High School to rebuild its moribund football program, he found a budding leader to help him put the school back on the road to football success.

One of Davidson's first tasks was to watch film of his returning players to see what he had to work with, and he was immediately drawn to a big lineman that jumped out onscreen. That player was recent West Virginia commitment Eric Jobe.

"Watching film of Eric, he first stood out because of his size," Davidson said. "But I had no idea how developed he was. He looked big, but when you see him in person, you realize he's just a muscular individual. He's not sloppy at all. We actually had to get him to put some weight on because of how lean he is."

While Jobe first drew attention due to his size, it was another quality that Davidson banked on to begin the rebuilding process.

"Without a doubt, his leadership is the thing that stands out," Davidson said. "He was a junior captain for us last year, and is a captain again this year. That's not just a title that was given, either. He took command of a team with some seniors who hadn't been taught how to lead, and he just took over. He took the reins of the team, and helped teach them the right way to do things.

"For example, this year he oversaw the offseason program and took responsibility for it. His teammates look up to him for those kinds of things. He's a magnetic type of kid. It would be easy for him to be arrogant in this situation, but he's not. Kids just seem to gravitate to him."

While Jobe was well-liked by his peers, Davidson worried that being such a nice guy might be hurting him a bit on the field. As one of the nicest people in the school (Davidson calls him "an All-American kid") he thought that he needed a bit of a harder edge on the field. That's something that Jobe has worked to develop, and an area in which Davidson believes he is much improved.

"I think his toughness is much better. He has become the classic tough guy lineman. He's never been hurt, pe se, but he plays through discomfort and carries an aura around with him now – sort of a swagger. He has always been a nice kid, and we've tried to instill in him the idea that ‘you're a player. You can be a shining light in this program.' You can't tell that to a lot of kids, because they will become conceited. But he needed that kick to take the next step.

"At the same time, he's just a model kid. If I had a son I'd want him to be Eric Jobe. There's not a person in the school who doesn't like him. Everything you hear anyone say about him is positive."

Jobe's on-field performance helped La Plata to a 4-6 record as a junior, which doesn't sound too impressive until you learn that the school won just five games combined over the previous three seasons. The state of the program, coupled with some strange inattention from recruiters, kept Jobe from getting the looks he deserved.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Davidson concurred. "Looking around, we're only six miles from Waldorf (Md.), but it seems like a world away. Waldorf is loaded with talent, and people went there all the time, but schools didn't know where we were. Fortunately, West Virginia did their homework. They saw their chance to get a diamond in the rough, and they took it. He's underpublicized and underhyped, but I know the type of player he is."

Davidson accompanied Jobe on his return trip to West Virginia, which came shortly after his camp visit to WVU. The trust that Davidson and Jobe cemented on that trip helped when the young lineman was making his final decision to attend West Virginia.

"When he went up the first time it was to see it from a school perspective. He went with his family and went to see the classrooms, the educational side," Davidson said. "But he also needed to see it from a football standpoint. I felt like it was my responsibility to show him that side. It was a great trip for us, because we got a chance to talk a lot about the recruiting process, football, and our team. It was a great experience for us."

Once there, Davidson was taken with the Mountaineer program. He attended a basketball camp at the WVU Coliseum back in 1982, and was surprised with all the improvements that had been made.

"I couldn't begin to tell you how impressed I was – I wanted a piece of paper with my name on it too," he said with a laugh.

The energetic coach also had good things to say about Jobe's recruiting coach, Bill Stewart.

"Coach Stewart had a major hand in Eric's choice," Davidson explained. "This is the first time I had worked with him. He is a wonderful man and makes you feel at home. He sits in my office and makes me feel at home. Coach Trickett also had a big influence when we got there. Those two made a huge impact on Eric

"I also know that Eric can't wait to get into the weightlifting program with Coach Barwis. He learned so much in that brief walkthrough. I think it was his favorite part of the trip."

Jobe is the first of Davidson's players (he has been a head coach at four different high schools) to commit early. However, he wasn't against that decision in the slightest.

"Other players I've had have waited up until signing date. But knowing Eric and what he wants, I thought he might be looking for an offer from a school with a higher academic reputation. So I talked with him about that, and the more that we talked, the more he realized he could get everything he wanted at WVU. He wants to go a place where he can be successful. It's one thing to go and play, but it's another to play in bowl games and be on TV and be successful every year.

"I told him, there are some schools you are looking at where you might not win a game. You need to take that into consideration. And when he did, it was clear that he already had the offer he was looking for."

Now that the decision is made, Jobe appears to be among the most solid of verbal commitments.

"Eric is the epitome of loyalty," Davidson said. "Another reason for choosing West Virginia is that they were the first school to offer. You can't put a value on how much that was worth –the fact that they wanted him first. He's ferociously loyal."

Now that the decision is out of the way, Davidson hopes that his star lineman can help lead La Plata to its dream – a berth in the playoffs.

"Coming into the season, we realistically thought we could be between 7-3 and 9-1. We gave away a game on Friday, but I don't think that will happen again," said Davidson, whose team now stands at 1-1. "The playoffs are our goal, and it would be such an unbelievable turnaround in the program, but we are capable of doing it. We haven't won a homecoming game in ten years, and it's been at least 10-12 years since we made the playoffs, but we think we can do it.

"Now that Eric's decision is made, I think we'll see an All-State caliber player the rest of the year. When he's on top of his game, he's unstoppable in our conference."


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