The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

July 6, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Trickett best option as a leader

MORGANTOWN — In the end, West Virginia University’s decision to place the mantle of starting quarterback upon veteran Clint Trickett was less about quarterback than it was about leadership.

This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system. That has yet to be proven one way or the other, his first season having been a flop more from the fact that he was injury restricted than lacked the ability to get the job done.

“If you evaluate last year’s tape, which we’ve watched countless times, when he was healthy, he played at a high level,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said when the decision was made to announce the staff had settled upon Trickett. “If you looked at the games he played in, and he was healthy, he played at a high level. The two Big 12 teams we beat, he played in.”

The ability was there. A torn rotator cuff has a tendency to lower your level of performance.

But Holgorsen and Dawson are of a belief that they don’t need an Archie Manning to run their offensive scheme, but they do need an Archie Manning to run the chemistry of the offensive unit, and they felt Trickett was the man who could provide the necessary leadership.

It is just difficult to lead when there is an uncertainty about your status.

“When you know you’re the guy and you’ve got the whole coaching staff behind you, it changes your demeanor; it changes your attitude,” Dawson said. “It’s only going to help him in the long run, and it’s only going to help our unit in the long run, so we felt like it was clear cut in our mind, so why not go ahead and do it.”

Trickett had been doing what he could to act the role of leader from the start.

“Since Oklahoma State last year, I’ve led like I’ve been the starter, even in the spring and summer,” said Trickett. “I’ve led like that because last time I checked, I was the starter. I think the guys knew it, so I led like that.”

The question, of course, becomes just what is a leader?

It isn’t just your best player. It isn’t even simply your quarterback, for leading is something that grows out of personality and one’s character far more than his skill set or his importance in the scheme that is being run.

What is a leader?

Any number of people have offered opinions on that, people from football to politics to military, and it is amazing how similar the descriptions really are.

“Leaders are made; they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile,” the legendary Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi once said.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born,” said Warren Bennis, an American scholar and author who is widely regarded the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership.

And what does it take to lead?

That, of course, is a discussion that could take a book to thrash through, but many successful people since the beginning of time have offered their views on the subject.

“A leader is a deal in hope,” Napoleon Bonaparte once said, offering a military view.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish,” added Sam Walton, the Wal-Mart founder.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others,” added Jack Welch, the one-time head of General Electric.

Trickett seems to innately sense all of this.

“You’re going to get a guy that is going to play his heart out. You’re going to get a guy that will play hurt,” Trickett said, when meeting with the media following the public announcement that he was the WVU starting QB. “You can’t call me soft; no matter what, you won’t be able to call me soft. You can tell me I suck, but you can’t call me soft.”

And that is something a football team needs from its leader. No matter how sophisticated the offense or the defense may become, in the end it is the strong who survive for wills are forever being tested.

A year ago, with Trickett injured and floundering, WVU was in search of a leader as much as anything else. This year the Mountaineers hope to have solved that problem by passing the ball to the man who passes the ball

“It’s for the group. It’s as much for him, as it is for the whole group, in my opinion,” Dawson said. “And it’s not like we just came out the other day and said, ‘OK, we’re going to name him the starter.’ This is something we talked about, we watched, we evaluated, and there’s no doubt in our opinion, he’s the best option.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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