NCF Nation: Donnel Thompson
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
CHICAGO -- Like his head coach and his teammates, Wisconsin defensive end O'Brien Schofield acknowledges a lack of cohesion in the locker room last year.
"We had guys that were trying to lead, but people really didn't buy into what they were saying," Schofield said. "It's important that the leaders we have now, guys respect who our leaders are and follow what the guys are trying to do."
As Schofield prepared for a greater leadership role this fall -- he's the only returning starter on the Badgers defensive line -- he decided to do a bit of research on how to effectively guide others. His search led him to an odd place: the equipment room.
All of the players and most of the coaches from Wisconsin's Rose Bowl teams in the 1990s are no longer with the program, but several members of the equipment staff have stuck around. At the beginning of the summer, Schofield asked them for help.
"I wanted to know what were things that they saw those teams had and what do we need," he said. "And the first thing everyone said was great leadership. The seniors didn't take [any excuses or mistakes]. They were really hard and putting their foot down on what they believe and what they wanted to happen.
"It's your team and it's your last go-round, so the season is going to be what you make it."
Schofield heard about players like Donnel Thompson, Jeff Mack, Chris McIntosh and more recent leaders like Joe Thomas, who "didn't care who you were, offense or defense, he'd get on you." Schofield then relayed the stories to several of his fellow seniors who are expected to step up as leaders this fall.
"It's important that our seniors realize what it takes," he said. "Most teams that have successful seasons, they all possess the same things, great leadership and guys buying in to what the coaches are talking about."