Article first published in 2016
Joshua Perry is an outstanding athlete. The thumping Ohio State linebacker is well-built, measuring 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, but he moves well for his size. His NFL Combine results, which include a 4.68 40-Yard Dash, are proof of that. He was part of the 2014 National Championship team.
However, Perry’s greatest attribute cannot be measured with a stopwatch—his leadership. Besides being named a captain for the Buckeyes in his senior season, Perry was selected as a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, an award that gives “equal weight to personal character as well as athletic performance.”
Joshua went on to play for San Diego / Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.
STACK chatted with Perry to discuss leadership, and he offered up three keys for any player who aspires to become a leader on their team.
1. Gain Trust
“To be a leader you have to gain trust. You do that by opening up your perspective a bit and getting to know the guys that you want to lead,” Perry said. “Throughout my career, I always wanted to get to know the guys and be able to connect, whether it was an incoming freshman or a guy in my own class who I’ve been around for four years.”
College football is unique in that roster sizes typically total over 100 players—much bigger than those in sports like baseball and basketball. When you have that many teammates, you’re surrounded by lots of people with different personalities and backgrounds. It might be easy to find a group of teammates you naturally gravitate toward and always hang out with them, but Perry advises you to build relationships with everyone on the roster.
2. Make Those Around You Better
Making your teammates better is a key aspect of being a leader, but how does one go about it? To Perry, getting the most out of your teammates means always bringing your A-game. From the practice field to film study to the weight room, Perry prides himself on approaching every aspect of football with intensity and focus. This rubs off on his teammates and helps everyone work harder.
“To take that next step as a leader, you have to make those around you better. So maybe that’s always being on your A-game, because people are always going to watch you and try to mimic what you do,” Perry said. Fellow OSU linebacker Darron Lee told Buckeye Extra that he views Perry as a role model. “I model myself after Josh, him being the big brother to me,” Lee said. “He does the right thing at every given moment. He’s a guy you never really have to worry about. And he works his tail off, day in, day out.”
According to Perry, making your teammates better also means knowing how to push them, which comes from a place of friendship. “When you get to know guys, you know how to push them to that place, you know what makes them tick, and you know how to bring the best out of them,” he said.
3. Be Accountable
“I think the biggest part of leadership is all-around accountability. If you’re going to be a leader, you’ve got to be on-point. You have to hold yourself to the highest level of accountability, and you’ve got to hold guys accountable,” Perry said.
Over time, consistency gets noticed and it gains the respect of everyone involved with your team. If you do the things you’re supposed to do day in and day out, you’ll slowly build a reputation as a reliable, accountable player. If you blow an assignment on a play, take responsibility and vow not to make the same mistake again. Beyond holding yourself accountable, a leader hold others accountable as well.