Stephens Shows Signs of a True Leader
Eric Stephens has taken on the role of a leader during his brief time away from practice.
August 9, 2011
by Britton Drown
Eric Stephens has been here before. As a junior, he understands the paramount role training camp holds for any team.
The heat, the early mornings, the repetitive grind--it's nothing new for the junior running back. But on Tuesday, Stephens was in a slightly unfamiliar role as the first whistle of the morning practice blew precisely at 10:15.
Standing in a gray Texas Tech Under Armour shirt, red cap and matching red shorts, he watched as his teammates stretched and prepared for the two-hour long practice to begin.
Less than 24 hours ago, Stephens had a tooth pulled, and according to his doctor, he must abandon the intense workouts that fall camp brings for at least the next two days.
So on Tuesday, Stephens adopted a different role for the day, one that resembled more of a coach than a player--and he enjoyed it.
"It's fun to actually just watch and see what else goes on during practice," Stephens said with a laugh. "When you are out there you are trying to pay attention and take care of your responsibilities."
Indeed, Stephens was much more relaxed on Tuesday morning than he had been in the opening three days of training camp. He could take a break from banging into defensive lineman and running through tedious and tiresome drills. But he understood too, that he could still make a difference in the Red Raiders practice while standing on the sideline.
"[I] just keep everybody encouraged and keep the sidelines up," Stephens said.
It didn't take long for Stephens to adopt his new temporary role, and he could quickly be seen jumping up and down along the sidelines, thumping on teammates' helmets and yelling out advice to receivers and running backs.
"What we are trying to do more this year that we didn't do last year is show emotion," Stephens said. "We didn't show enough emotion last year, so I'm just trying to encourage us on the sideline."
One of Stephens' main targets of encouragement on Tuesday was freshman running back DeAndre Washingon. The 5-foot-7 product of Missouri City, Texas is a player Stephens says he has taken under his wing during the opening week of training camp.
"I'm trying to really coach him up because he reminds me a lot of myself," Stephens said.
Most of that noticeable and emotional interaction with his teammates came during the end of practice, as the offense and defense went live against one another.
Even before that though, Stephens seemed to naturally take on the role of a coach.
For running backs coach Chad Scott, a vocal and interactive leader like Stephens is a vital asset to the Texas Tech squad. As his position coach, Scott has seen Stephens grow immensely throughout the previous two years, and observing him on the sidelines coaching the way he did on Tuesday, is no surprise.
"It's maturity," Scott said. "When he's not in like today, he's paying attention to absolutely everything that is going on, and also helping the younger guys. We have some good young talent, and with him being a leader, it's going to be extremely helpful."
Of course for now, Stephens is anxious to return to his natural role on the field as a running back. It's clear too, that like many of his teammates, his eyes are set on the end goal of training game, which is being prepared for the Red Raiders' Sept. 3 season-opener against Texas State.
"I can't put it into words," Stephens said "All of the training over the summer, this whole camp. That's what we do it for. The good stuff right here, you can't go to Sept. 3 without this. It's vital to our success."