First Posted: 8/13/2011
PEMBROKE — Some players lead loudly, with animated clapping and boisterous instructing.
Justin Bullard is not one of these players. He takes the quiet, lead-by-example approach.
Bullard, a six-foot-two, 200-pound senior linebacker for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team, and a 2008 Purnell Swett High School graduate, is exercising his leadership qualities with his fellow upperclassmen during UNCP’s first week of practice, which started this past Wednesday.
Being one of the few experienced returnees shouldering pads for a young Braves team this fall, Bullard has a sole focus heading into practice.
“When I come here I try to come out and do what I can and try to do what’s right — lead by example,” Bullard said following Saturday morning’s practice, held on the practice field hugging UNCP’s Grace P. Johnson Stadium. “I’m not real vocal but I think I give a good example of what to follow.”
Whether it’s while running sprints, doing up-downs or gritting through tackling drills, Bullard knows a precedent has to be set — and mirrored by his teammates.
So far, he likes what he sees.
“Everybody’s giving everything they can, coming out here giving 100 percent,” Bullard said.
The UNCP senior is accustomed to leaving it all on the field. At Purnell Swett, Bullard earned the team’s Most Dedicated honors his junior and senior seasons.
“I always thought the best thing about Justin was his demeanour,” Swett coach Mark Heil said. “Justin by nature is very quiet, but he always carried himself first-class. That’s something special about him.
“I’m definitely going to some games this year to see Justin play. I know he’s going to be an impact player this year.”
After collecting 17 tackles in nine games as a sophomore Bullard had 14 tackles in eight games a season ago for a senior-heavy squad. This fall, the Braves trot out a much younger team, especially on defense where Bullard is one of only eight seniors.
“We’re a pretty young team,” UNCP coach Pete Shinnick said. “We lost about 20 seniors last fall — a lot of guys that played a ton last year aren’t with us.”
Besides Bullard, other notable seniors Shinnick mentioned were offensive linemen Lance White and Keith Broderick, and running back Travis Daniels. The quartet, among others, are turned to for setting the Braves’ tone.
“Our guys have been very attentive,” Shinnick said. “The objective is we want them just to focus and keep all the distractions to a minimum. Just keep focusing on getting better today, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Braves have their first practice in full pads today. UNCP’s season opener is Sept. 3 at Fayetteville State.
Sports Editor Kaleb Roedel can be reached at (910)272-6111 or e-mailed at [email protected]