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August 9, 2012Kevin Reddick, the senior voice who can stop this team in its tracks, pulled junior safety Tre Boston aside in the 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.
"I've taken a leadership role as I've become older," Boston said. "I 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?
"I really took on that role and matured a lot. I know when to be happy, excited and dance, and when to crackdown and play seriously. But you have to find the mixture between both to become a great player."
His teammates -- and coaches -- have been watching. They saw Boston embrace Reddick's advice and become a different person and player throughout the summer and now into preseason camp.
"I have been with him the whole time," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "He'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.
"He stayed after [workouts] extra," Renner said. "He was the last guy to leave the field sometimes. He always wants to get better and is always striving to get better."
When he first thought about Reddick's advice, Boston said he realized he needed help. He could not do this on his own with the secondary. So he want to his fellow Floridian and friend, cornerback Jabari Price.
"I've seen Jabari, same as me, grow from a child to a man," Boston said. "When Kevin told me I had to lead, I went to Jabari to help, too. I have to know when I'm doing stuff right, when I'm doing stuff wrong. I also needed him to step up and coach the defensive backs, just as he is now."
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.
"It's up to you if you want to accept that role," Boston said. "You 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 I'm trying to do now.
"I'll take guys aside every night," Boston said, "and 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."
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.
"Jabari has made a bunch of plays in practice, and Tre is always there," Fedora said. "He knows what he is going every single time."
Fedora has music pumping loudly into practice, and it'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. He's moving, dancing in place as he readies for the next play.
Fedora the fact Boston is not content to lead by example. He encourages teammates and picks them up with his high-strung spirits.
"He's a very vocal, demonstrative player," Fedora said. "He's a guy who really enjoys playing the game. Those guys are fun to coach because they have a good time playing.
"Tre has picked it up very well. I think he is a talented kid. He should do great things for us."
Boston said that is 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.
"The music brings another element to us," Boston said. "Everybody 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.
"Some guys want to be tired, but they can't. They see the leaders jumping around, dancing, excited. It gives another whole excitement to the team."
Boston's love for this new scheme is genuine. He has been turned loose to run and attack -- so long as he knows his plays. So he made it his business to know.
"I like it because we fly around a lot," Boston said. "We 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. We're going to get to the ball, and that is how this defense plays.
"I feel there is no other way to play defense," Boston said, "with excitement, with speed. You have to go around smacking people in the face. That's the only way to have fun."
Renner competes against the defense every day. So he attests to their energy level and the additional speed and aggressiveness this entire unit shows.
"This whole defense has been challenging me the whole time," Renner said. "They'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 it's good to have that rivalry inside your team. It makes you better on Saturdays.
"The defense they run is very complicated," Renner said. "I haven't seen in my career. It really forces you to be on your toes. You can'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."
Senior Gene Robinson said that Boston and Price really do lead the way, too.
"He's playing on instincts now," Robinson said. "Tre has always been an athlete. Now everything is coming together for him. So is Jabari Price."
"We're all getting to the ball," Robinson said. "We're all in the picture."