Squad Leader  

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AFC South: Do-it-all QB Manning a consummate leader

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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Leaders come in all types. Some are quiet, some flamboyant, some spiritual, some charismatic. But in the NFL, they all have one thing in common: They are the guys their teammates follow in tough times and rally behind, the guys setting the tone at practice, the first ones there, the last ones to leave. They're the ones who have no fear of game deficits or the two-minute warning, the ones players turn to for direction in trying to achieve the ultimate team goal -- winning on Sundays. This week, NFL.com identifies the squad leaders of each team.

Squad Leaders:
» AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
» NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

 

Peyton Manning, quarterback. Peyton Manning, play-caller. Peyton Manning, de facto offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

It only stands to reason that there also would be Peyton Manning, leader.

He has, in fact, long been one of the NFL's prime examples of leadership. There are others in the AFC South, even if none has anything remotely approaching Manning's prominence.

Here's the rundown:

AFC South Squad Leaders

Texans: QB Matt Schaub

Few would argue with the choice of linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who has consistently been a catalyst for the defense since joining the team in 2006. But the current struggles of the Texans' defense make it a little difficult to pick someone from that unit.

 

The Texans are all about offense. And the one player whose considerable talent gives him the ability to influence his offensive and defensive teammates is Schaub. He takes it upon himself to make certain that everyone in the Texans organization takes care of each other like a family.

Schaub is not too vocal, but he picks his spots to be heard. When he has something to say, those around him usually listen. After Schaub rallied the Texans for a 35-31 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6, coach Gary Kubiak said the team would have fallen short if not for the will of the quarterback.

Colts: QB Peyton Manning

Being the NFL's only four-time MVP would figure to be more than enough reason for Manning's teammates to follow him as they would any of the three coaches the Colts have had during his 13 seasons in Indianapolis. Ditto for the many league passing records he set, and will continue to set.

 

But Manning does so much more to earn a level of respect that few, if any, other quarterbacks -- or players at any position -- command. His preparation is legendary and establishes a pace that his teammates on both sides of the ball feel compelled to follow. No one studies more tape of opponents than Manning.

Typical of his diligence was when, before the 2009 AFC Championship Game, he zeroed in on plays with which he struggled against Baltimore when Jets coach Rex Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator. Manning also doesn't merely practice. He literally runs the offensive workouts. If there's a mistake, a coach doesn't have to tell Manning or anyone else to run it again. Manning takes care of that. If a receiver runs a wrong route or drops a pass, he can be certain that the first person in his face will be the towering quarterback wearing No. 18.

Jaguars: DE Aaron Kampman

Although he joined the Jaguars in the offseason as a free-agent acquisition from the Green Bay Packers, Kampman has clearly established himself as one of the team's primary leaders.

 

He arrived with Pro Bowl credentials and a reputation as a sack master, which he has backed up with a team-leading four sacks. Kampman commands respect in the locker room and is a professional in every sense by the way he carries himself. He made his presence felt on his first full day of training camp practice in the blistering heat by leading his fellow defensive linemen through post-practice stretching.

After missing seven games last year with a torn ACL, Kampman has never felt a greater appreciation for the game. As one of his younger teammates said last summer, Kampman's word is law around the Jaguars.

Tennessee Titans: FB Ahmard Hall

On a team with multiple players who qualify as solid leaders, Hall separates himself from the rest with his tough, gritty style of play and strong character.

 

He developed his leadership skills while in the Marines, which he joined when he was 18 and in high school. From 1998 to 2002, Hall was a field radio operator. While deployed in Afghanistan for a tour of duty, he wound up earning the rank of Sergeant. Hall credits his military experience with providing him much-needed discipline and direction, while also teaching him the value of team work.

At the end of his service, he proceeded to earn a degree at the University of Texas. He also helped the Longhorns win the 2005 National Championship before joining the Titans as an undrafted free agent. Hall sets the tone for the offense by helping to open holes through which Chris Johnson has established himself as one of the most explosive backs in the NFL.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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