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Every team needs leaders. They bring the players together, harness their energy, achieve goals. For this reason, captains are usually veterans, most often experienced seniors. But being a senior is not a requirement to be a captain. What is required is a person who can put the team first, a person who will always give 100 percent. A person who can inspire a team to lead themselves.
These are the qualities that caused the University of Colorado football team to defy convention and vote two soon-to-be sophomores in as captains. Quarterback Sefo Liufau and linebacker Addison Gillam’s actions on and off the field inspired their team to make them its leaders.
A sophomore has never been voted captain in the history of Colorado football, and now there are two. Liufau and Gillam will join seniors defensive lineman Juda Parker, defensive back Terrel Smith and offensive lineman Daniel Munyer and junior wide receiver Nelson Spruce as they attempt to lead the Buffs to a bowl game as team captains.
Gillam says he was shocked when informed of his team’s decision.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Gillam said. “Knowing that the team supported me that much and believed in me to lead them properly.”
Gillam, who led the team in tackles last year as a freshman, believes that it was his work ethic that impacted his team’s decision.
“I think my effort [influenced it],” Gillam said. “I think I led by example really well. I am not a loud vocal person or anything, but I always try to do the right thing. I show up and give 100 percent effort. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Liufau, who was the starting quarterback as a freshman last season, expressed how honored he was by his teammates’ decision and understands the duties of a captain.
“It’s a real honor especially being a freshman and realizing a lot of guys are looking up to you,” Liufau said. “But it also says to me that I have to take it up to another level and lead even more by example and by action.”
Liufau attributes his captain-ship ability to the confidence he tries to exhibit.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself, and sometimes it can flow from me into my teammates,” Liufau said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is; I’m always going to keep playing and keep fighting. On the practice field, I’m always out there trying to help the guys and teach them in any way that I can. Even in the weight room I encourage guys. I think that’s some of the things I do that the guys see in me.”
While their prowess on the field certainly helped the team’s decision, head coach Mike MacIntyre thinks that it is the character displayed by Liufau and Gillam that makes them leaders.
“I think that’s a great honor for Addison and Sefo,” MacIntyre said. “It’s not just the football players they are, it’s the kind of people they are off the field. [The team] wants people who know how to lead, and Sefo and Addison represent that. These guys are going to be here for a while. They were selected by their teammates, not the coaches, and people need to understand that.”
Liufau has been in this position before. He was voted captain of his high school team as a sophomore. He hopes to use this experience to lead his older teammates.
“I don’t think it will be any different than high school,” Liufau said. “It’s still just a team. I was a leader as a sophomore in high school. I think that you don’t treat [the team] any differently. Don’t act any differently. You just do your best to lead and to lead by example.”
Coach MacIntyre echoed Liufau’s sentiment that if the young captains stay true to themselves, the older guys will follow.
“They just need to be who they have been so far; that’s why they elected them — they had a tremendous amount of votes,” MacIntyre said. “They don’t have to change a thing other than to keep growing and maturing.”
Gillam has seen an improvement in the team this spring. This improvement is part of the reason he has such high hopes for the season.
“We are definitely looking better than last spring,” Gillam said. “We all want a bowl game.”
Despite the leadership displayed by Gillam and Liufau, it takes more than two players to help a team achieve their goals. If the Buffs are to make their first bowl game since 2007, everyone will have to step up.
“In my eyes everyone should be a leader,” Liufau said. “Just because you don’t have the label of captain doesn’t mean you can’t lead. I try to encourage some of the guys who aren’t captain but have leadership qualities to come out and also try to lead.”
If these two young leaders can help their veteran captains inspire the team to lead itself, they may just lead themselves to a great season.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sean Kelly at Sean.firstname.lastname@example.org.