Leo Gordon knew he was a leader. However, as a first-year player on a team coming off a playoff berth, nobody looked to Gordon to lead -- until the leaders went down with injuries.
I think he's going to be a great leader next year.
-- Jadira Green
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior transferred to Oxon Hill from C.H. Flowers for his junior season and the only person he knew on the football team was then-head coach Kevin Wolfolk, who had been one of Gordon's teachers when they were both at Flowers.
"Coming to Oxon Hill was exciting. I knew the coach [Wolfolk] from Flowers and I was real comfortable," Gordon said. "He knew that I had the talent. He gave me the chance and I showed him."
Gordon's desire to lead was realized when, before the 2008 season started, the Clippers lost two of their captains, Jadira Green and Brandon Felder.
"When we lost Jadira we lost a lot of our leadership," Wolfolk said. "Leo did a good job of stepping in. I was pleasantly surprised."
Wolfolk had an idea of who Gordon was as a person, but his attitude and effort in practice spoke more than Gordon himself.
"His attitude is fantastic. He's not a complainer -- a whiner. He's a guy that comes out and loves to practice. That's when you know a guy has a passion for the game -- when he comes out to practice and it's a little slippery and wet and he doesn't complain about it," Wolfolk said. "When he does say something it has some meaning. When he finally opens up his mouth the team listens. It's more of a leadership role, [he'll say], 'Stop complaining. Ya'll want to play or not?'"
"I was very shocked. I didn't know if Leo could take that kind of leadership," Green added. "This was our first time playing together so I didn't know he had that in him. Leo came in and took the leadership. I remember him showing the other running backs how to cut, how to use your vision, your speed and break tackles. That's how he started with the leadership. Then sometimes when some of the other captains weren't there he took on the leadership of getting the warm-up lines set up. I think he's going to be a great leader next year."
With the loss of Felder, a Penn State commit, Malik Cross was called to play more of a receiver's role, leaving the starting running back job to Gordon.
Gordon responded with a 1,000-yard, 13-touchdown year in which he averaged 7.6 yards per carry.
"That was just me wanting to follow my dream of leading a team to the playoffs in my high school career. I saw my team falling off and I tried to get them back up," Gordon said. "I was always a leader-type guy, but I always tried to let the seniors speak up. We had team meetings after practice to talk about what was going on with the team. It was just going down so I had to step up."
While Oxon Hill missed the playoffs last season, the Clippers have shown drastic improvement since finishing 1-9 in 2006. In 2007, the team finished 7-3 and made the playoffs. Last season, the team finished 6-4.
Next season will bring more changes to the Clippers. As of press time, they have not hired a new head coach (Wolfolk resigned midseason last year and assistant coach Nigel Cross filled in for the second half of the season) and Green and Felder will have moved on to play football in college.
There will be one more change when summer practice begins this season. Now teammates will be looking to Gordon for leadership from the beginning.
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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com