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Penn State Football: Leadership Takes on New Forms in a COVID-19 World

by on June 11, 2020 3:42 PM

Accountability means a lot of different things depending on the situation. It can mean getting your work done on time. It can mean that when a play is called you take care of your block so a running back can hit the hole. It can mean simply doing to laundry.

It can also mean staying home.

Take, for example, the life of a college athlete. It’s a day packed with homework, workouts, team meetings, practicing, studying, classes and then a million more small moments.

So when you finally get a few hours off, say on a Saturday night after a game or maybe during the off week or a Thursday, you might take that time to go out with some friends.

Penn State players are no different than any other college athlete and that free time spent unwinding at any number of State College’s local establishments is a perfectly reasonable way to let off a little steam. One imagines that they’ll burn off the calories in short order.

But like all things, enter COVID-19 and the endless array of risks that come along with going out in public. It’s not so much that Penn State players will get sick, but the fact it’s entirely possible that it could happen.

And then a Saturday night after a game against Indiana turns into missing Ohio State next week.

“I actually haven't thought about anything like that,” Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson said during a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “But yeah, that's a great point to think about. There's definitely gonna have to be some accountability towards guys going out and the risk of getting sick.”

It makes for an interesting leadership dynamic on a Penn State roster that is not short on leaders but a group that has otherwise limited its leadership to more football and academic endeavors. It's one thing to lead on the field and the classroom, another when it comes to the rest of a person's life.

Dotson can’t keep his teammates from living their life, but sacrificing just a bit more might be the difference in health and sickness, playing and being sidelined.

“That comes with a leadership role and honestly I'm just gonna have to take it on myself,” Dotson added. “To let guys know that, ‘we need you.' We need everyone all hands on all board.”

When it’s all said and done it comes down to accountability both while out on the town and around the building. James Franklin can’t Uber his players safely to the rooms each night as much as he might like to.

So like all things that go into being a high level college athlete, your teammates can only take you so far, sometimes your success and health are simply in your own hands.

“When we leave the facility, we won't be able to watch every single person,” Dotson added.

“So guys are gonna have to be accountable for themselves, knowing that they're at risk, anytime they're in public with other people so we're going to have to be cautious with things like that. We're gonna have to see the bigger picture.”

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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