The Union

I have blogged a lot on the ability of others to lead and what other should be doing to become better leaders. Now in this blog I would like to show my knowledge of leadership and teamwork in my  life, and more specifically my football career.

The Union is what the offensive line ( We include the Tight Ends in there as well) is called around campus at the University of Nevada.  We like to think of ourselves as the engine that runs this train. As we go, so does the team.  We are coached in a way that has full accountability put on our shoulders, we want to be the ones that in the end decides the outcome of the football game.When the offense sputters, we take that personally, we know that we need to do a better job. When the offense is prolific (the way it’s supposed to be!), we take that as a sign that we did our job in that particular game.   We lead by example in everything that we do, the way that we practice, off the field, and most importantly in the way we play.

Each and every year since I have been here, we have had a member of the union serve as one of the captains of our football team. Does this come as a coincidence? Absolutely not, the senior most member of the union is always looked at as being one of the emotional leaders for the team, they’ve generally played in a lot of games, and know what it takes to win.  More importantly, the team aspect they bring is crucial.  I believe the offensive line position is one of the most team oriented positions in all of sports.

I can’t score touchdowns. I can’t do it.  The other members of the line and I can only create opportunities for others to score touchdowns so that in the end we can win the game.  We don’t have any stats.  When people ask me how my season is going I can’t point to, well I have x amount of touchdowns, x amount of passing yards, x amount of rushing yards…etc.  I can say, the offense is scoring a lot of touchdowns, I must be doing something right, or I can say that the offense is sputtering, obviously I’m not doing my job.  More importantly, I can point to the wins  because  that is all that really matters, and that person can make their own assessment on how they think my season is going.  We know as a unit that if we do our job, make our blocks, we have the skill positions put in place that will light up the score board, we just need to clear the path for them and give them time to make things happen.

Our offensive line as a whole last season was arguably the best offensive line in University of Nevada history.  We were the #1 rushing team in the NCAA, averaging 344.9 rush yards/game.  We averaged a whopping 7+yards per carry.  We were the first team in NCAA history to have 3 different 1,000 yard rushers in the same season. Those 3 players are now enshrined in the college football hall of fame.  I’ve talked to a few of the guys in the Union and we talk about how we can always look at that and think “we made” the college football hall of fame along with Kaep, Vai and Luke..who are all incredible football players, don’t get me wrong, but we were right there along with them.

We had a decent season with 8 consecutive wins in the middle of it, but no bowl ring and no conference championship. Some people would call that a good season and be content with it. After we lost in the Hawaii Bowl last year one of our leaders in the offensive line our center Kenny Ackerman was disgusted, he was even quoted in the media right after the game apologizing to our fans, and alumni for the poor performance, because as I said before he took the loss personally. It was The Union’s job to win games, when we didn’t it was our fault we lost.  That’s the accountability we are coached with, we expect it from ourselves.  We don’t want to turn to any other group on the field and expect them to be the ones to make the big play and win us the game, we wanted to be the ones to do it.

At the end of the year we had the stats, but really who cares about stats? Every media person I’ve talked to lately wants to know if we can come back this year and put up the same stats, I give each and every one of them the same answer. I hope so, but really I’m only interested in winning.  Now I’ve come full circle in this whole thing, I went from being the freshmen who started who was just trying to be one of the guys and not make any mistakes and let the older guys down, to being a guy who was asked to move positions to guard and hit the ground running, to a returning starter who was expected to be one of the leaders and be productive my junior season to being the Senior most member of the offensive line who is counted on (along with Virg and Jose) and expected to be a leader both on and off the field which is where I am at today.

Every year when we start the season The Union dedicates the season to our seniors, play our hearts out so that our seniors can go out championships. They worked hard to get to where they’re at, and they deserve to be champions.  It still bothers me that the last few years I have been unable to accomplish that goal, and all of these union members that have been seniors on my watch, have not been able to go out champions. Now it’s my turn to be a senior, I have to try and make sure I leave as a champion.

My legacy if you want to call it that at the University of Nevada will come down to my senior season, how do people remember me? What kind of leader am I? How did I get the guys around me to step up and produce the way that we as a team need them to? These are a lot of questions that are going to be answered very soon.  I can tell you one thing, a WAC championship ring along with a few signature wins would go a long way towards building this legacy.

Now it’s the responsibility of The Union to get us to where we want to be.

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About johnwbender

John Bender Graduate of the University of Nevada Offensive lineman for the Calgary Stampeders
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3 Responses to The Union

  1. Patrick H says:

    Another great post. We Pack fans have a great admiration for and pride in the Union and their accomplishments over the decades. You’re a great representative for the group and their tradition of excellence in play and leadership. I hope you continue to blog about your final year with the Pack, and perhaps even beyond at the next level.

  2. johnwbender says:

    Thanks, I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. I was doing all these blogs for one of my business classes I was taking over the summer. I’m done the class now and not sure how much time I will have to blog, this will be a very important season for me and the rest of the Pack.

    Maybe I will be able to put out a blog every now and then though.

  3. Patrick H says:

    This is a HUGE year for you, the other seniors and the entire program. Blogging is a luxury. Sure I’d love to read more…but you’ve got a job to do. Any more posts is just a bonus, but not expected.

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