Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Changing a program's culture through attitude alone

Dwight Lowery is a great example of a guy who leads by example. The rookie cornerback for the NY Jets "speaks softly and rarely." Says one teammate, "He doesn’t talk much, doesn’t say much, doesn’t laugh much."

According to this NY Times article:

Teammates regard Lowery as Captain Serious — age 22, plays as if 32, acts as if 42. Serious has always been his way. At San Jose State, Lowery played every practice as if it would be his last. He regarded each play as intense competition.

By the time he left, Coach Dick Tomey said Lowery had changed his program’s culture with that attitude.

[SJSU teammates say Lowery made them better] without even speaking — in the way Lowery arrived 90 minutes early before each practice, in the way he stayed after to watch film.

“I never had a player that was as serious, I mean dead serious about being good, as he is,” Tomey said in a telephone interview. “It’s not something we taught him. He came with that.”

As the N.F.L. draft approached, Tomey told that to every personnel person who would listen. Forget about the knocks on Lowery’s speed, Tomey pleaded, the kid can play.

That Lowery slipped to the Jets in the fourth round did not surprise Tomey. Nor did the fact that Lowery started the opening game of his rookie season.

I’m just surprised at the continued insistence of the N.F.L. to think that a stopwatch is the determining factor,” Tomey said.

Instinct helped ease Lowery’s transition, Tomey said. When San Jose State recruited Lowry from Cabrillo College, two qualities — instinct and anticipation — jumped out on film.

“Those instincts are God-given,” Tomey said. “Something else we certainly didn’t teach him. He came with that."

Lowery said recently that he enjoyed his pre-draft interview with the Jets because "we sat down and we talked a lot of football." According to Lowery:

"(The Jets) put film on, we watched film, they asked me what I saw, what my responsibilities were, trying to figure out, do you know what you’re doing as a football player? I think that’s the most important thing, regardless of how fast you run or how high you jump or where you went to college. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to put yourself in position to be successful."

Said Jets head coach Eric Mangini:

"Whenever you look at a cornerback, you want to see, OK, does he understand just what he has to do or does he understand the whole defense? With Dwight, (at the combine) he could explain man, zone, techniques — his technique, the back-side corner’s technique, the safety’s technique. He can explain fronts, front fits. And that’s a really good trait for any defensive back."

According to Lowery, his "approach" is this:

"If you take care of the little things, big things will happen. I think it starts with mental imagery. If you can see yourself doing something, you're more likely do it and I think that's where it started for myself. The more you study, the more you see yourself doing something because you understand what's going on around you."