By Eddy Landreth
Senior linebacker Kevin Reddick, the voice that can stop the Carolina football team in its tracks, pulled junior safety Tre Boston aside this spring and told him greatness required more than Boston was giving.
Boston said he thought about what Reddick said and realized he was absolutely right. As a third-year player in the secondary, his obligations extended beyond learning his position and trying to make positive plays.
Playing hard was no longer enough.
â€œIâ€™ve taken a leadership role as Iâ€™ve become older,â€ Boston said. â€œI sat down with K-Red last spring. He told me it was time to become a leader. I can make plays, but what are plays if you cannot lead people?
â€œI really took on that role and matured a lot. I know when to be happy, excited and dance, and when to crack down and play seriously. But you have to find the mixture between both to become a great player.â€
His teammates â€“ and coaches â€“ have been watching. They saw Boston embrace Reddickâ€™s advice and become a different person and player throughout the summer and now into preseason camp.
â€œI have been with him the whole time,â€ quarterback Bryn Renner said. â€œHeâ€™s just grown up a ton. He really studies the game. I thought he made big strides this summer. He took that leap forward as a leader that he needed to take.
â€œHe stayed after [workouts] extra,â€ Renner said. â€œHe was the last guy to leave the field sometimes. He always wants to get better and is always striving to get better.â€
When he first thought about Reddickâ€™s advice, Boston said he realized he needed help. He could not do this on his own with the secondary. So he went to his fellow Floridian and friend, cornerback Jabari Price.
â€œIâ€™ve seen Jabari, same as me, grow from a child to a man,â€ Boston said. â€œWhen Kevin told me I had to lead, I went to Jabari to help too. I have to know when Iâ€™m doing stuff right, when Iâ€™m doing stuff wrong. I also needed him to step up and coach the defensive backs, just as he is now.â€
Coaching is exactly what the staff needs from the veteran players on this team. Renner has done it with the younger quarterbacks. Boston and Price are doing it with the defensive backs.
â€œItâ€™s up to you if you want to accept that role,â€ Boston said. â€œYou can be selfish and become an individual, or you can help your team get better. I chose to get my team better. That is what Iâ€™m trying to do now.
â€œIâ€™ll take guys aside every night,â€ Boston said, â€œand teach a little bit of the playbook, plays at a time. In the summer, we had newcomers and I spent extra time with them, teaching them the fundamentals, teaching them what to look for on film. And when you teach younger guys what to do, you help them mature faster.â€
Coach Larry Fedora does not hand out praise lightly. He can be rather blunt. So when he says Boston and Price have impressed him, you can believe they have.
â€œJabari has made a bunch of plays in practice, and Tre is always there,â€ Fedora said. â€œHe knows where he is going every single time.â€
Fedora has music pumping loudly into practice, and itâ€™s evident that Boston is having a ball. He loves to play, and the music fits right into his idea of having fun on the football field. Heâ€™s moving, dancing in place as he readies for the next play.
Fedora noted how Boston encourages teammates and picks them up with his high-strung spirits.
â€œHeâ€™s a very vocal, demonstrative player,â€ Fedora said. â€œHeâ€™s a guy who really enjoys playing the game. Those guys are fun to coach because they have a good time playing.
â€œTre has picked it up very well. I think he is a talented kid. He should do great things for us.â€
Boston said that this leadership thing is all about pulling his teammates together, keeping their spirits high and pushing the entire team along in a positive direction. Naturally, he will benefit as everyone moves in that direction.
â€œThe music brings another element to us,â€ Boston said. â€œEverybody has down moments, but you have to have leaders who can pump a team up. We try to keep it exciting, keep a high tempo. When you have guys who are hyped and excited, it brings other guys into it.
â€œSome guys want to be tired, but they canâ€™t. They see the leaders jumping around, dancing, excited. It gives another whole excitement to the team.â€
Bostonâ€™s love for this new scheme is genuine. He has been turned loose to run and attack â€“ so long as he knows his plays. So he made it his business to know.
â€œI like it because we fly around a lot,â€ Boston said. â€œWe like to play smart, fast and physical. With that, we fly everywhere. Nothing is a dull moment where we are just loafing on the field. Weâ€™re going to get to the ball, and that is how this defense plays.
â€œI feel there is no other way to play defense,â€ Boston said, â€œwith excitement, with speed. You have to go around smacking people in the face. Thatâ€™s the only way to have fun.â€
Renner competes against the defense every day, so he can attest to their energy level and the additional speed and aggression this entire unit shows.
â€œThis whole defense has been challenging me the whole time,â€ Renner said. â€œTheyâ€™re going to bring out the best in our offense because of the way they play. They always want to compete. They always play hard. And itâ€™s good to have that rivalry inside your team. It makes you better on Saturdays.
â€œThe defense they run is very complicated,â€ Renner said. â€œI havenâ€™t seen in my career. It really forces you to be on your toes. You canâ€™t take a play off. The way they hop around and fly around with those two hybrid guys, bringing them off the edge, the different blitzes we see on a daily basis do a great job of making us better.â€
Senior Gene Robinson said that Boston and Price really do lead the way, too.
â€œHeâ€™s playing on instincts now,â€ Robinson said. â€œTre has always been an athlete. Now everything is coming together for him. So is Jabari Price.â€
â€œWeâ€™re all getting to the ball,â€ Robinson said. â€œWeâ€™re all in the picture.â€