ROCKINGHAM — During the Richmond football team’s “State of the Program” event back in February, head coach Bryan Till introduced a dozen players — known as the team’s leadership council — who were being primed for a 10-week training process that would help develop them into better leaders on and off the field.
Fast-forward a little more than two months, and the 12-man crew is halfway through its eighth week of the course, focusing on how to become better vocal leaders, after spending the first five to six weeks learning to lead by example.
“All of the skills in life that we’ve been gifted with, we still have to practice and hone them. So it’s been neat to see these guys try and do some of the things that we’ve been asking them to do,” Till said. “They’re at the point now where they’re really starting to put things into action … Now, I want them to continue doing those things and get even better at them.”
Juniors Jake Ransom, Malik Stanback and Bobby Terry, sophomores Jaheim Covington and Joerail White, and freshman Caleb Hood are some of the most notable names on the leadership council. Hood, Ransom, Stanback and Terry each has been named all-conference at least once — Ransom being the only two-time selection. Both Covington and White showed a lot of potential in their first full years on the varsity squad.
Junior Isaiah Ratliff, sophomores Noah Altman, Brian Bowden, Jahan Jones and Xavion Lindsey, and freshman C.J. Tillman also have proved their worth with their play — some sharing time on both the junior varsity and varsity teams — without as many minutes on the field. They also have been called on to tap into their leadership abilities.
“There are a million reasons (why we picked this group of guys), but the main thing is either we see them already as a leader and we want them to be better,” Till said, “or we see them having to develop into that leader of the future, so we’re going to go ahead and start training them for it.”
Of all the activities that have taken place since the 10-week process began, Till says his favorite was when he invited the council over to his house on a Saturday. He thinks that was one of the more important moments because the players could see that he and the other coaches “are real people who care about and believe in them.”
That kind of time spent together away from school and the football field, he says, helps break the barrier that sometimes exists between coaches and players.
“We want want these guys to understand that it’s truly about life and not just about winning some ball games. We think it will (help win games),” he said with a laugh, “but that they understand that it’s more of a personal thing.”
At a coaching clinic earlier this year, quarterbacks coach Jay Jones attended a session led by Atlanta Falcons defensive assistant and defensive backs coach Charlie Jackson. Since then, Jones and Jackson have built a relationship that led to the latter agreeing to speak to the council via FaceTime.
That conversation — in which Jackson talked about his upbringing in Macon County, Georgia; his time spent as a student athlete at the Air Force Academy; what led him to work/volunteer at UCLA; and how each player can separate himself from the rest of the pack — took place Monday night.
“They really left with a good feel for it,” Till said. “And I think they also left with a great appreciation for Coach Jones and how much work he had done to give them that opporutnity. I was impressed with that.”
With only two weeks left, and spring practice starting Monday, May 14, Till hopes everyone on the council will walk away a better leader while understanding that what they learned — and will learn — can be applied to everyday life as well.
He also wants the players to believe they have the ability to lead the Raiders to a state championship this December.
“That is the ultimate goal,” Till said of a run at a state title. “We’ve never shied away from saying that or setting that out there.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.