Leadership is a quality that you can't see with the naked eye. It isn't always an indicator of talent and it's not something that can be faked. There are born leaders and there are others who simply aren't cut from that mold.
One of the unique things about college football is the changing of the guard each season among the rosters. Seniors move on while freshmen are thrown into the fire.
The same is true for new leaders.
Each winter, teams across the country wait for the next batch of leaders to step up and take charge of the locker room. Coaches rely on these players for motivation and inspiration, both on and off the field.
In that respect, Penn State is no different. In many other ways, it is.
It doesn't matter how many coaches come and go and how often. Winning is all that matters to players, not loyalty. Hire the best at all cost— Mike Hull (@m_hull4943) January 8, 2014
The Nittany Lions have lost guys like Malcolm Willis, Glenn Carson and DaQuan Jones, all multi-year starters and locker room leaders. Each of them was the leader of his position group on defense and each has left a void.
Like every other team, Penn State needs new guys to step up and fill those voids.
Unlike many of those teams, though, this Nittany Lions roster is stocked full of players capable and willing to be that guy.
Leadership doesn't necessarily come with being a vocal guy or a star player. It's not quantifiable or predictable in most instances, but one thing a leader must possess is mental toughness.
The 2014 Penn State team might be the most mentally tough team in the country.
Each player on this team has experienced hardship and turmoil in the last few years that would have—and did—break lesser men.
From the Sandusky scandal to multiple coaching changes and crippling sanctions, no other group of young men has been forced to show the resolve and tenacity that this squad has volunteered for.
Every player on the roster had the option to leave Penn State or avoid coming at all.
The incoming freshmen had their futures suspended in jeopardy on New Year's Eve as their head-coach-to-be disappeared to the NFL. The underclassmen signed their letters of intent while knowing they may never play in a bowl game. The upperclassmen stayed true to their blue and white roots while the world was telling them that their program was falling apart.
These players are the ones who stayed as their teammates and roommates were transferring across the country.
When people were doing anything they could to distance themselves from Penn State football, this roster of young men stared in the face of adversity.
Rather than listening to the narrative and adhering to the national perception, these players stayed Penn State strong. In doing so, they led.
We all we got! No reason to panic or jump ship! Doesn't matter the system nor the coach...players win games period— Bill Belton (@W3BII) January 1, 2014
They chose to be a part of the rebuild and each one of them has helped to lead Penn State out of the dark place it was found in two short years ago.
Leaders can be star quarterbacks like Matt McGloin or tight ends who convert to platoon at offensive tackle like Garry Gilliam.
They come from different backgrounds and cultures, but they're decisive. When times get tough, people naturally look to them for support.
Leaders understand what has to be done during a crisis and remain focused on the task at hand regardless of the outside noise. Leaders do what each and every player on this Penn State team has done numerous times over the past couple of years.
It's a safe bet that this group of young leaders isn't going to back down from the challenge now.