What does it mean to be a leader? How can you tell when someone has what it takes to be a leader? There are several different interpretations, and it all depends on one's personal outlook and lifestyle. For the Dolphins All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, he prefers to lead by example.
After the first day of training camp, head Joe Philbin talked to the media and discussed the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, and the things he revealed should prompt fans to give a lot of respect to the man who has labeled as the dirtiest player in the NFL.
“One thing he did is he encouraged Jordan Phillips to come out and train with him. That’s an example of leadership – of taking a young player, showing him obviously from a physical standpoint and a professionalism standpoint, a preparation standpoint, some of the things that he’s done to get himself ready." Philbin said. "Now, to take a young player under his wing so to speak and do those things, so that’s one great example that he’s done already in the short time he’s been here.”
Jordan Phillips' work ethic has come into question at times, and there's speculation that the rookie out of Oklahoma has something of a low motor. But if Suh manages to keep on him and continue to train him in how a professional football player should conduct himself, Phillips could eventually be a very good player.
But it isn't just his interaction with the younger players that makes Suh a great leader, he's also gone out of his way to ingratiate himself with a man who has been considered one of the league's best edge-rushers for several years now: defensive end Cameron Wake. And according to Suh, he's been doing it long before the first day of camp.
“If we just started communicating today, it would be too late." Suh said after the first day of camp. "We had to start that back in OTAs and mini-camp, like I said, and even before that. Once I knew I was coming down here reaching out to him, understanding this is his defensive line and I am coming to be a part of it.
"I just want to understand particularly my role – how I can help, how I can help him make more plays, get more sacks. I am a selfless player so I want to see him be successful and I want to be successful myself as a competitor and go from there. Communication is key.”
And it was communication between him and Mike Tannenbaum that began sparking this whole discussion of whether or not Suh could be a leader, and it's very clear at this point that Suh wants to prove he can be.
“Mike Tannenbaum definitely challenged me and it is a challenge that I always accept no matter what." Suh said. "As I have grown up and understood in the league, being hopefully one of the elite guys, to be good and to be great as I want to be you have to go out there and help the guys around you, especially younger guys bringing them along once you understand your role of what you have to accomplish.
"Jordan Phillips, (Anthony Johnson), guys like that you want to be able to help. Obviously they have great talent or they wouldn’t be here, but understanding how to be pros and I had to have that same thing when I was here. Kyle Vaden Bosch, Corey Williams, guys like that helped me get to where I am at right now.”
So you see ladies and gentlemen, sometimes it isn't always about being the loudest or most vocal player in the locker room, like some would have you believe. Sometimes the best form of leadership comes in the form of work ethic and inspiring others by example to follow that pattern. Suh understands that, and is doing his part.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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