Football Fall Camp: KU Selects Captains, Conducts Two-A-Day Session
Kansas continued its preparations for the 2013 season during fall football camp Monday and conducting another two-a-day practice session on the fields outside Memorial Stadium. Following the team’s morning session, head football coach Charlie Weis revealed the results of the vote for captains, which was conducted by the team Sunday night.
Junior quarterback Jake Heaps, junior linebacker Ben Heeney, senior running back James Sims and junior defensive lineman Keon Stowers were selected by their peers as this year’s team captains, while nine other players were appointed as members of the team leadership council. Weis talked about leadership in his weekly press conference before turning the mic over to his team leaders.
Kansas Head Coach Charlies Weis
“Good Morning. Obviously this is the last week of regular training camp because school starts Monday. We’re on a two-a-day, one-a-day schedule through Friday. On Friday you had on your list to be determined, that will be me because today we are going to talk about something a little bit different.
“Last year when I got here and started trying to put my stamp on how I believed business is supposed to be done. You start as you are studying your team and new players, you start realizing that true leadership or lack thereof, was a definite problem here. A true indicator of that was when we picked captains last year. I love Dayne Crist, but for him to be a runaway leader as the captain of your team when he has been here three days. That says a lot about his character, but it also says a lot about the character of your team, you have a team void of leaders so there is good news and bad news at the same time. We have been on a year-long mission to try and rectify that and start developing inherent leadership in your team that could eventually take over your team.
“Too many coaches during the game think they have a say in what ends up happening, but in reality coaches jobs are leading up to the game. That’s when all your work is done. Your work starts Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Saturday is supposed to be for the players, it’s not supposed to be for the coaches. People are paying money to go watch those games to watch the players play, not to watch the coaches man the sideline. I think they should have a new rule that coaches are never on TV, they never show video of the coaches, because really it should be about the game. Your team is never going to be any good unless your leaders take care of all the issues. It might be something that happened on the field, like a bad play. It might be somebody complaining and moaning about something that happened and somebody says, ‘let’s go, next play.’ Or sometime when the team is a little flat, somebody besides the head coach jumping in and getting after them.
“During my career I have watched this happen a zillion times by really natural leaders. Sometimes you are a little bit suppressed. For example, Tommy Brady is one of the best leaders that I have ever seen, but when we first got to New England Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. It’s really tough to be a leader when you are the fourth string quarterback not playing at all and really no sign that you are even going to play. A year or two later he turns into one of the natural leaders of the franchise for several years to come.
“We voted for captains yesterday and it was really interesting because rather than have somebody else count them, I counted them because I want to see how it all plays out. What I did a little differently than last year is in addition to having them vote for somebody on their side of the ball or a specialist, I had them vote for another wild card person. Like who is another person on the team that you would want to lead our team. So really every player got two votes. You know the players that voted for themselves because they were the ones with one vote. There were several of them, in case you are wondering. They think that I’m dumb enough not to figure that one out on my own, but it was a very clear delineation of several players that the team looks at. What I did is I have gone back to how I originally started doing this years ago when I first got to Notre Dame. What I did was after watching the team we picked captains, but in addition to captains we also had a leadership committee. The reason for that is sometimes players don’t want to go complain to the captains or bring an idea to the captains because they think the captains are tied to the hip with the coach and they think that will only get them in trouble. It’s sort of like student government where you have the president and secretary and treasurer and then you have the representatives.
“After looking at the vote it was very clear without exceptions who the team thought were the captains and it was also clear without exceptions who the team thought the guys were who they wanted representing the various positions on the team. I’m going to give you the captains of our team. I’m going to give you the leadership committee as well and then I’m leaving and the captains are going to come in and then you can talk to them. The tradeoff is that I am going to come back and talk to you Friday, which I wasn’t going to do and I certainly don’t want to do, but that is the trade-off. Because today isn’t about me answering the zillion questions you want to ask me, you can ask me Friday. That’s not the message today. Today there is a very good message that the program is headed in the right direction because the players have perceived leadership on the team. In addition to the guys that I am mentioning there are other guys that the coaches believe have a chance to be leaders that the players don’t see it that way at this point, but I really believe that you have to let the captains and the leaders be picked by their peers because it really doesn’t make a difference what I think, it’s what they think.
“There are four captains that we are going to name and they are going to be Jake Heaps, James Sims, Ben Heeney and Keon Stowers. All four of those guys will be available to you shortly and you can ask them whatever questions you want, but I think the theme really should be about them being picked by their peers as being leaders. Now the leadership committee has nine additional people, Jimmay Mundine, Christian Matthews, Tony Pierson, Pat Lewandowski, Keba Agostinho, Cassius Sendish, Dexter Linton, Darius Willis and the ninth person really made me smile to see such great support for the ninth person, because some of you heard that one of the walk-ons I gave a scholarship to was Blake Jablonski. Here is a kid from Wichita that bleeds Crimson and Blue, been in the program forever, has a role as our holder and is actually involved in some of our special teams now, he’s about ready to graduate and really doesn’t hurt the program as far as not having a scholarship available next year because he will be gone and you will still have the scholarship available. When I give a walk-on a scholarship it is only guaranteed for a year, it’s not for the duration. As I walked away, I watched the team celebrating as I gave Blake a scholarship and I wasn’t expecting as we did the vote for the leadership committee for him to be one of the highest vote getters. So that is kind of telling you that you are picking the right people. So the ninth person on the leadership committee will be Blake Jablonski.
“I’m going to turn this over to the four captains and I think that today’s story is really about leadership. It’s about Kansas football if we are going to return to being a consistent winning program, you have to have players that are willing to take on the responsibility of leadership, because when it’s in the fourth quarter and times are tough and somebody has to pull it together, it’s not coach Weis yelling from the sideline that’s going to get it done, it’s going to be somebody saying something in the huddle that’s going to get it done and hopefully with the number of people that got supported by our players, hopefully it’s multiple people. So on that note I’m going to leave and turn it over to them and the payback is I will come back Friday at the same time at 11:45 because it’s two-a-day, I will come back at 11:45 and make myself available for all your questions. Thank you.”
On becoming a captain after sitting last year out…
Jake Heaps: “It really does mean a lot to me, probably more than anybody would ever know. On the team, for people to look at me that way on this team, and knowing the amount of work I’ve put in, it’s just them recognizing the work that you’ve put in through all this time. Especially in the off year when I wasn’t able to play, and just continuing to work and continuing to be the guy that people can count on and lean on and come talk to if they needed something and if they wanted to vent or something like that. It’s been really fun this off-season, getting to work with everybody, this has just been really humbling.”
On his leadership role last year…
Heaps: “I was just trying to be the best team player I could possibly be and be around for these guys and be there for them in any way shape or form. Like I said, whether I was talking to people on the side, and encouraging them or helping them or whatever. And going out there and doing the best I could on scout team, whatever it was I was just going to do whatever I could to be the best I could be.”
On the changes in leadership from last year…
Ben Heeney: “Last year, the senior class, the leadership just- they’re good players and stuff but a little leadership lacked and that’s what we needed. And you could tell on the field last year sometimes, there just wasn’t guys picking guys up out there. That’s something we really want to work on this year and the four guys up here are going to do the best we can.”
On what they have in common as leaders…
Heaps: “The biggest thing I think is we’re just about the team. This is a team effort and we’re not a bunch of individuals up here, we’ve been all about the team, the moment we stepped here on campus. And really going into this last year, we thought, “What can we do to change things?” A lot of it had to do with mentality and a lot of it had to with a need for leadership and a lot of guys needed to step up, and a lot of guys were forced to take a role that they aren’t used to taking and being vocal and encouraging guys. Being a leader is uncomfortable. Some people look at it as it’s a good spotlight, it’s something where everybody would want to be in, but that’s not always the case. Some people had to get out of their comfort zone a little bit. I think we’re all about the team and we just want to do whatever we can to help.”
On if he ever thought he would be in a leadership position…
James Sims: “I didn’t think that at all. Looking back at it, me coming in as a freshman, not really wanting to talk to the media, not really having the chance to talk to the media coming straight out of high school, or anything like that. It was a big change and a different experience for me, but it was all good.”
On being voted captain by his teammates…
Keon Stowers: “It means the world. It means 105 other guys believe in me, also I believe in myself. Just to sit up here with these three guys, you know it’s amazing. To go from where I came from and be sitting here in front of you guys, it’s a very humbling experience.”
On which captain is more vocal…
Sims: “Jake Heaps. He’s the vocal guy right there.”
Stowers: “I’d probably say Jake. He gets us going.”
On being uncomfortable as a leader…
Heeney: “Like Jake was saying, I had a pretty good year last year and Jake recognized that. After the last game was over, after the West Virginia game, the next day, Jake called me in and me and him talked for like two hours, just about what my role needs to be now. I’m not just a sophomore anymore and I need to step up. I feel like I’ve done that in the off season. Yeah, it was uncomfortable at first, because I’m a guy that’s always joking around, trying to be friends, buddies with everyone on the team. I feel like I still am, but like Jake said, it’s uncomfortable to be a leader, sometimes when you need to say something, when something needs to be said, I’ve taken it upon myself to say those things now instead of sitting back and watching.”
Sims: “After the West Virginia game, me and Heaps, we met up in the quarterbacks room and we were watching the films and he was just telling me, as far as this upcoming season just to make sure that I take more of a leadership role and become more of a vocal guy because the players on the team will look up to me. I just took that in, embodied what he was saying in the off-season, I wasn’t really the vocal type of guy that just talked to everyone. I just did my thing and just kept quiet. This off-season has changed a little, me just coming in trying starting to be more vocal, just communicating with the team, stuff like that, it helped out a lot. I’m just glad they chose me and us as captains up here.”
On talking with his teammates about their leadership roles this season…
Heaps: “You have different conversations with different guys, because different guys have different roles on this team. And when you look at leadership you look at maybe these four guys in the room, but that’s not all it is. There’s a lot of other guys on this team that have stepped up as leaders too. They might not have the biggest team leadership role, but they are leaders in their individual positions. So you want everyone to feel responsibility for this team and want people to be excited about this program and feel like they have a part and have a role. You want to get to a point where everyone feels like they’re a leader, everyone feels like they can say something because we’re all in this together. That’s the thing, everyone has to be in it together.
These guys obviously have major leadership qualities, and guys respect them and talk to them. Even during the season, I pulled Ben or Keon or James aside and say “Hey man, let’s talk, let’s be more vocal. Guys look up to you, you guys can say stuff.” You could tell they more apprehensive, but once they spoke, once they were vocal, they could see people’s reactions and ti gave them more confidence. That’s not a pat on the back on me, that’s just a teammate and recognizing that these guys have leadership qualities that they don’t realize that they have. These guys have done an amazing job this off season, that’s why we’ve come together so much as a team, more than anybody really knows because we’ve all bought into what we’re trying to do this year.”
Heeney: “To add to what Jake said, I think Jake is in a different position than the rest of us three, because us three were playing last year and Jake didn’t get to play so Jake was sitting back, watching, seeing what changes needed to be made on the team. And that’s why he really came up to us and told us you guys need to step up because he saw the leadership last year and I think it has really helped us out.”
On the difference from hearing about leadership from a teammate rather than a coach…
Heeney: “Coach Weis has always been on us, and me (specifically), that as a play maker, as a guy that was making plays last year, guys are going to look up to you. Jake said the same thing. It comes from both coaches and other players.”
Stowers: “To add to what Ben was saying, and to add to your question. To hear it come from a player, it’s different. When you hear it from a coach it’s sort of like a parent or a father figure coming down on you telling you you’ve gotta do better. But when it’s coming from one of your buddies, that you see in the laundry room, you see in the dorms, you see in the lunch room. It sticks with you more because those are the guys that are out there between the lines. The coaches they’re going to tell you you’ve gotta get after it, they’re going to have the headset on, but when it’s coming from a guy that you’re lining up beside, or a guy that you’re cheering on while he’s out there on the other side of the ball. It resonates with you better.”
Did Jake [Heaps] call you in at the end of last season?
Stowers: “No, but we have had our fair share of talks.”
On difficulty of being a leader last season when he had to redshirt…
Heaps: “I think it really taught me a lot of lessons about leadership and different kinds of leadership. I’ve always been the type the vocal type to always take the reigns and I’m a perfectionist and I like things done a certain way. For me to have to take a step back [last year] and really just be a supportive teammate, and be a guy just to be there for other guys on the team, it really taught me a lot and just showed me that every day you have to be able to come in and work. Every day you have to be the same guy, don’t change, and be there for your teammates, and the vocal stuff will come with that. It really didn’t bother me as far as not being able to say anything because I knew my role on the team, there were other captains there was other leadership on the team at the time. I think the guys looked at me the same as everybody else. I may not have been as vocal, but I just was there to support my teammates and it has really helped me a lot.”
On the announcement of the captains…
Stowers: “It was today after practice, when he called everybody up. We voted yesterday, we had a team vote, a team meeting, we passed out a slip and voted like that. Today after practice he called us out, so that was pretty cool.”
On the team reaction after the captains announcement compared to Blake Jablonski scholarship celebration…
Stowers: “We didn’t get all of that [Blake Jablonski celebration], I was kind of disappointed. It was cool though, guys were clapping up, we heard a lot of congratulations and it really means a lot just to be voted on by the team, it was cool.”
On importance of leadership and bringing the guys on the team together, new and old…
Heeney: “It’s really important. That’s something that we worked on a lot during the summer too. A lot of guys came in during the summer and were working out with us. We worked out every day together besides Sundays so we were with each other all summer, and I’m still with these guys. I’m getting sick of these guys honestly [laughter]. We still have a couple guys that aren’t here yet and when they get here we are going to do the same thing, just mold them to run with the pack.”
On the leadership committee and the role it will play…
Heaps: “I think it’s awesome. It’s not just us four being leaders on this team, and the team leaders and captains, that’s what this designates us as. There’s other leadership roles on this team. There’s different stages of leadership and you need to have those guys and that’s what that leadership council is it’s that second group. And that may be you don’t want to go talk to coach or you don’t want to talk to us as captains. Maybe one of those guys in your position group is on the leadership council that you feel comfortable with that you can go talk to them about issues or something you’re having a problem with, then they can approach coach.
“It’s a great way to go about things so that you’re covering the whole team and you have different ways to help everybody out and be there for each other it’s just an extension of that. With that being said, coach said it to us out there on the field, he said if there was 13 guys out there, he said ‘I don’t know if I could find it [leadership]’. I think that just goes to show how much this team has really bought in to what we’re doing, how much we have come together and how much we really are passionate and love what we are doing and what we are trying to accomplish this year and this team definitely has a different feel to it when you walk around. I’m very excited about this team and the chemistry we have.”
Kansas will open the 2013 football season by hosting South Dakota on Saturday, Sept. 7 in Memorial Stadium. Game time is slated for 6 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by contacting the Kansas Ticket Office at 1-800-34-HAWKS or via the web at KUAthletics.com.
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