The best leaders know exactly what their team needs at the precise moment it needs it. Sometimes it's encouragement, sometimes it's a kick in the pants, and sometimes it's a good laugh.
Maty Mauk and Evan Boehm, two of the Missouri Tigers' emerging leaders, are experts in the latter. They can give rah-rah speeches and holler with the best of coaches, but where they really shine is in lightening the mood.
"The relationship that we have is pretty unique," Mauk says with a laugh. "I don't really know how to describe it."
Before they arrived at Missouri as classmates in the summer of 2012, they already knew they would be close friends. Boehm heard about Mauk's exploits as a record-setting prep quarterback and reached out on Facebook and with emails and text messages.
With both being sons of high school coaches, they connected on subjects great and small -- their enthusiasm for Mizzou, expectations of college life, the weight of being two of the Tigers’ top prospects.
Once on campus, their fun-loving personalities meshed further, as Mauk and Boehm discovered they were kindred spirits who could talk about football and life deep into the night.
"It's that quarterback-center relationship you try to find," said Boehm, who started at guard as a true freshman while Mauk redshirted.
"The relationship we've had since Day 1 has been a special relationship, because I ultimately knew that I wanted to move to center and snap the ball to him."
Boehm did move to center last fall, and Mauk became the Tigers' backup QB. As their roles on the team grew, so did their friendship and their antics on the field.
At first there were curious glances and puzzled looks, but soon coaches and teammates knew the deal. Mauk and Boehm were a couple of cutups who were starting to work their goofiness into the culture of the Tigers' locker room.
"We're going to come out [to practice] and people are going to think, 'Hey, they're messing around,'" Mauk said. "But that's just how we communicate. We know each other and we know football. So we're always finding something that we think will help us get better."
One of their favorite rituals started last season just before walkthroughs.
"I take the shotgun snap from Maty and then we both grab a ball and we start throwing it at the goalpost to see who can hit it first," Boehm said. "It's a little friendly competition but it's a tradition that we started last year, a tradition that we kept in spring ball. It's just a lot of fun.
"At first the coaches really didn't understand what we were doing. But once they realized the type of relationship that me and Maty had -- we always laugh and we always smile. They didn't understand it at first, but now they kind of do. And they're letting it go and they're letting it slide as long as we're getting the job done, too."
Mauk and Boehm helped the Tigers get a lot done in 2013, namely winning the SEC East and finishing with a No. 5 ranking in the final polls.
Now Missouri's starting quarterback and his anchor on the offensive line have their sights set on lifting the program -- and each other -- even higher in 2014.
Boehm's goal is to be the top center in the SEC if not the nation. Mauk is his biggest fan.
"He's really progressed since last year, just over the year," Mauk said. "I'm really excited for him to do these big things he's about to do."
Boehm likewise believes Mauk is just scratching the surface of his talent.
"The kid has matured 100 percent for the better since he's gotten here," Boehm said. "The kid is still growing as a person. You can tell that he realizes that this is his team now."
They both do. It's their time to step forward and their time to say the right thing at just the right time.
"Being a coach's kid you have to be that leader on and off the field," Boehm said. "Maty and I, we're taking that role right now. We respect the seniors and everything they have to say, but at the same time you can never have enough leaders out on that field."