| February 23, 2018

Column: Leaders and playmakers

April 17, 2017

Leadership outweighs talent in the sports world.

Granted, having a dependable playmaker can help a team reach the next level, but without someone to rally behind, someone to believe in, most teams flounder in mediocrity, regardless of talent.

Locker room leaders have become the most integral part of any major sports team.

Lebron James is a prime example of a player who may not be the most well-rounded, perfect player, but has enough fire and passion to lead his team to a title. James, though powerful when driving to the basket, has trouble hitting his shots from outside the perimeter and rarely ever fires a 3-pointer.

However, James is currently known as the greatest player on the courts. His love for the game, combined with his leadership and ability to inspire his teammates is what led Cleveland to back-to-back NBA Finals.

James is just one example of how leadership can sometimes outweigh talent. Deshaun Watson, one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, is anything but a perfect passer. Watson underwhelmed scouts during his final season at Clemson, throwing 17 interceptions compared to 41 touchdowns. The year before, he threw 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. However, Clemson fell short of the championship against Alabama in 2016. In 2017. Despite sloppier play, Watson led the Tigers to a revenge title game against the Tide and this time came away with the trophy.

So what was the difference?

When watching Watson in 2017, it was clear that he had control over the offense. He looked comfortable and focused, like a leader. He encouraged his teammates, driving them to believe in themselves during that final drive in the National Championship.

This isn’t to say Watson did not possess leadership capabilities the previous year. He just grew from that season and came back with a Lebron James-like passion.

Not every leader is apparent. There are quarterbacks in the NFL that wear their heart on their sleeve. Players like Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Tom Brady can be seen before a game pumping up the team in the huddle. Others, however, lead in a much quieter way.

Peyton Manning, a deadly accurate quarterback, was never one for a boisterous display of emotion. In fact, some of his most crucial leading moments came on the sideline, walking his receivers through routes and making sure his offensive line knew the protection on the next play. While certainly not the loudest player on the field, in both Denver and Indianapolis Manning was one of the most valuable quarterbacks to play the game. Yes, he had the magic touch when it came to throwing the ball, but he was far from the perfect athlete. Seeing Manning run out of the pocket was almost comical, and the power behind his accurate arm started to fade with age.

His knowledge of the game and passion for winning, on the other handed, remained immortal.

The athletes on this list, though talented in their own right, would have never reached such incredible heights without the power to inspire their teammates and lead others.

Brandon Hill can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill

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