Ray Lewis, Chipper Jones and the 4 Pro Athletes Who Epitomize Leadership
During my youth, Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, Red Wings center Steve Yzerman and Pistons guard Joe Dumars were three consummate professionals who epitomized strong leadership.
While each was a star in their own right, Detroiters loved these blue-collar guys for their leadership qualities.
Trammell, Yzerman and Dumars were all quiet, lead-by-example leaders.
They epitomized the hard hat, lunch pail-type work ethic Detroiters related to well.
More importantly, these men were the glue that held their teams together—even during the most trying of times.
Never did you hear any drama in the press from Trammell, Yzerman or Dumars—not like what we see today at least.
Never did you hear these men chastise their teammates for poor performance.
When placed on a pedestal, these men spoke in “we” versus “I” terms with regards to their team’s success.
When the team did not perform well, these men were the first to jump on the sword, even if the defeat was not their fault.
Off the field, Trammell, Yzerman and Dumars lived noble lives and were actively involved in Detroit’s community.
Because of these intangibles, fans of all ages loved these athletes. Safe to say, these men were truly missed both on and off the field of battle when they retired from their respective sports.
Now an adult, I still seek out leaders with similar traits to these men. Along the way, I have discovered four of my favorites, which are revealed in this slideshow.
Baseball: Chipper Jones
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1991 Score baseball cards are not very valuable today.
Thanks to overproduction in the 1990s, you can go on eBay today and get a 36-pack hobby box for less than $10.
Yet to a 12-year-old kid who scraped up $0.50 cents to buy a pack of those colorful packs back in those years, these cards were like gold.
In the second series of this set were probably the neatest baseball cards my friends and I ever collected. They were first-round draft pick cards.
Each orange-background card with white trim had a high school player sporting poses. Chipper Jones was one of the players in this set.
My friends and I loved this card, mostly because it looked cool. Plus the player's name was Chipper.
Who would have thought that more than 20 years later, Chipper would still playing for the Atlanta Braves?
In an era where it is rare for a baseball star to play for the same team their entire career, Chipper is a breath of fresh air.
And while debates about whether Jones is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player are plentiful, his leadership with the Braves during the past two decades cannot be overlooked.
Not only is the guy a household name among baseball fans, but he also has been a mainstay in the Braves lineup.
A career .300 hitter, Chipper has led his team to more than a decade of division championships.
Chipper has also played through pain without excuse and has set a strong but quiet example for others on his team and in the community.
Not bad for a fan favorite whose 1991 Score First Round Draft Pick baseball card is worth just $4.00 in today’s market.
Hockey: Nicklas Lidstrom
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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is a true professional.
Quiet and hard-working, Lidstrom has revolutionized the defenseman position in hockey.
In a game where bruisers capture the hearts and minds of the blood-thirsty who demand more, Lidstrom utilizes his great instincts, intellect and skating ability to bring a sense of style and grace to the game.
Wings fans can attest, it always seems Lidstrom is in the right place at the right time.
How many times has the puck cycled the corners, only to land on the taped blade of this mid-ice streaking defenseman’s goal-scoring stick?
Four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies and acclaim as the NHL player of the decade notwithstanding, his positive impact on Detroit’s hockey club is indisputable.
To prove this point, the Red Wings have made the playoffs 21 straight years.
Lidstrom has been on the team 20 years.
Yet despite all Lidstrom’s achievements and accolades, many rarely hear much from him.
This is because actions speak louder than words. Lidstrom’s actions speak volumes.
And with each winter that passes, Red Wings fans grow more and more appreciative, for they realize this great man is near the end of a storied career. And there may never be another defenseman quite like him.
Basketball: Derrick Rose
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What is not to like about Bulls point man Derrick Rose?
Not only is this young man a consistently electric presence on the basketball court, but he is also a quiet, calming force with his teammates.
A passionate, yet soft-spoken and hard-working leader, Rose plays the game of basketball with reckless abandon that results in acrobatic, crowd-rousing plays.
Rarely do you ever see Rose lose his cool.
If Rose does lose his cool, he usually has valid reason for unloading his grievance.
Chicagoans cannot help but love Rose, for he represents a great town with great fans who like their players to represent them well.
Rose has certainly lived up to these high expectations.
And as unfortunate as it was to watch Rose go down to injury in the playoffs, rest assured, he will return this fall with a vengeance.
Football: Ray Lewis
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As a military member, there is nobody I would rather go to combat with than Ray Lewis.
Though more outspoken than the aforementioned athletes, Ray oozes passion and inspiration, not just for football, but for life in general.
Mr. Lewis has overcome adversity in his early adult life and has become one of the biggest motivational figures in professional sports.
His bone-crushing hits on the football field are a product of a work ethic that makes teammates place hands on their knees in exhaustion, all while he readies for the next round of “muscle confusion” exercises.
Lewis is also a staple in the Baltimore community, and I can’t name anyone in Maryland who does not know him.
I often joke with my Steelers-loving friends stationed with me. While they cringe at the name "Ray Lewis" when the Ravens pop up on the schedule, I say, “Yeah, well, deep down I KNOW all of you would love to have them on your team.”
To this, there is no argument whatsoever.
Ravens fans will sure miss Ray when he hangs up the pads in a year or two...or three.