Buying Into Change

by Dexton Fields

A couple of visits to training camp practices, and I’m already seeing the same things with this Jayhawks team that I saw back in my playing days, 13 years ago.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

We all had that drive to want to do better and prove people wrong. That’s how it was every single day, whether it was practice or game nights.

There was also this confidence in ourselves that we truly belonged where other successful programs were at the time, even if no one else could see it yet

Behind the scenes, we were grinding those goals into reality.

When KU changed the coaching staff so close to the new season, I wasn’t sure what to think. But once I actually listened to what Coach Leipold and his staff had to say, it clicked.

It wasn’t just a rah-rah type of thing, either—like, “we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do that.” It was the tone of that message with an actual track record to back it up.

They weren’t just faking it, you know?

That’s when I really started to believe in this coaching staff. That’s when I knew these were the guys that would get us back to respectability.

The handshake meeting

For me, it all started with a handshake.

Not that I’m important or anything like that, but Coach Leipold came over to me directly during a practice session, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming out.

That was a big deal to me.

Sounds simple, but not a lot of coaches may do something like that. Just him recognizing I was probably a former athlete or alumni and making the time, even if it was just a 10-second deal, I think that shows instantly where his heart is at — he cares.

There might have been times in the past when we couldn’t even get into the facility or be at practices, but things are different with this coaching staff.

And you can already see the impact they’re having. You can see it on the faces of the players and in their body language that they’ve truly bought in.

It’s easier to buy in when the coaches buy into you as a player, you know?

One of the things that stuck out to me about Coach Leipold was not only about building discipline and accountability, but he also talked about working with what we have on the roster.

That’s the way we built a conference champion and Bowl game-winner back in 2007. My coach didn’t just go after five-star guys. We built it on two or three-star guys.

You win games by instilling discipline, getting players to believe, and developing players into the best versions of themselves.

And then the other things come.

You can already see it on the practice field. Guys are just bouncing around and playing loose with a confidence I haven’t seen in a while. I’m a firm believer that any system you implement—no matter what you do—can work when everyone buys in and believes in it.

If everyone does that, you can be successful.

Why I chose KU

That belief just leads to an overall closeness, you know?

No, a brotherhood.

Just being back out there on that field reminded me of why I chose to come to Kansas when I was recruited. It wasn’t about any offensive system, records, or anything like that. The reason why I chose KU was because everyone on that team was close. It seemed like a family.

So I, being the introvert that I was, knew it was a perfect fit. I didn’t want to be eight hours away from home and feel like a stranger.

I wanted to be part of a brotherhood.

But those feelings extend out to the greater community as well. We have some diehard football fans here. I know that might come as a surprise to some, but there are a lot of people in the community that really love KU football.

Even to this day, people still recognize me and talk about the good, old days. I’ve never been the type of person to tell people that I played because I’m just not like that.

So you have to be a diehard fan to recognize my name. I never played in the NFL, and I was never All-Conference or anything like that.

I was just Dexton Fields, wide receiver for the Jayhawks.

But people still recognize my name. It just shows how much this community loves this football program, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving place for Coach Leipold to build his vision.

The perfect balance

I think it’s a perfect balance as far as the coaching staff, philosophies, and just the overall culture of what they’re trying to establish here. The structure is definitely disciplined, but it isn’t such a tight ship that guys are afraid to make a mistake.

It’s a caring environment.

I didn’t hear a lot of yelling when I was out there, but when I did, it was always positive and good. They’re drilling the basic technique stuff and building a foundation. It’s always about doing the little things right when you’re out there on the field, you know?

And most importantly, you can see the players are genuinely excited about this season.

I think it’s pretty obvious how excited I am. The fact that I came to two of the practices says a lot!

Look, I don’t think KU fans are asking for much in the first year, and I’m not going to go out on a limb by giving any record predictions or anything like that.

What I do know is this team will be competitive.

And no doubt, Coach Leipold’s track record shows what he is capable of.

So, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Friday.