FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Built To Lead
No longer a freshman new to the game, Pierre-Louis uses experience to lead linebackers
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
A good leader knows when to talk and when to listen. A good leader understands the value of putting the necessary work into each task he commits to. A good leader lifts his team when it is down and stays strong for those beside him. Luckily for the 2012 Boston College football team, Kevin Pierre-Louis knows a thing or two about being a good leader.
Enrolling at BC a semester early in 2010, KPL, as he is known by his peers, was forced to adjust to the life of a collegiate student-athlete very quickly. While the ability to practice with his future teammates during spring drills was helpful, the general transition into college was an opening insight to the Norwalk, Conn. native.
“Coming in the spring, teachers don’t give that leeway that they usually do freshman year, because the teachers think that you already know everything since you already have a semester under your belt,” he said. “I didn’t have that semester under my belt, so the transition was a little more difficult. It wasn’t necessarily that school was hard, it’s just being able to be on my own, and pretty much doing everything on my own.”
Regardless, Pierre-Louis overcame this culture shock and worked tirelessly in the classroom, as well as on the gridiron. Looking back on that first semester, the linebacker is appreciative for how the experience has shaped him today. Not to mention, he had a lot of success in both avenues. On the field, he finished second in tackles behind former Eagle Luke Kuechly, with 93 tackles and 59 solo stops. He was named to the Rivals.com Freshman All-American team.
“It’s become a tremendous positive, both academically and athletically,” he said. “Academically, I had always done tremendously well in school. That semester just opened my eyes to what could happen if I don’t stay focused. Athletically, I believe it allowed me to get used to the team. I feel like I’ve been here for as long as a senior has, which I kind of almost have, only a semester short. I feel as though I’m a lot older and have a lot more responsibility.”
That sense of responsibility is not a new feeling for KPL. During his freshman campaign, the weak side linebacker saw action in every game, becoming a staple in one of the ACC’s strongest defensive units. While many first-year players would feel the pressure of playing Division I football, Pierre-Louis was probably his own harshest critic.
“The pressure that I put on myself was that I had to do everything right,” he said. “We had a lot of older guys on the team, so I knew that every mistake I made would be magnified. So, I just wanted to compete with older guys and make sure that they could count on me.”
This mentality gave KPL the motivation necessary to stay in the lineup and earn the trust of his teammates and coaches.
“Probably the middle of the season,” he said in regards to the time he first became comfortable, “because I realized that I couldn’t play as a freshman anymore, because I was no longer a freshman. I had been playing with these guys, practicing with them, and taking reps with them, so I knew that they believed in me and I started to believe in myself.”
Pierre-Louis credits a whole cast of veteran Eagles with his development. Players like Alex Albright, Kaleb Ramsey, Kuechly, Mark Herzlich, Jim Noel, and Donnie Fletcher were just some of the many contributors to his ability to be the worker he is today. Today, KPL realizes that he has now taken the role of leader and mentor for the Eagles.
“It was comforting knowing that those guys, no matter what happens, were going to be in the right position,” he said. “So, I had to make sure I was at the right position. Now the role is flipped, so I am one of the older guys. The young guys need to have confidence in me that I’m always going to be in the right position, so I have to make sure I carry that leadership with me in the way that the older guys when I was a freshman carried it.”
This transformation from true freshman, adjusting to college, to team leader has been an amazing process for the junior.
One way in which Pierre-Louis has been able to develop his leadership skills came this summer when he worked as an Orientation Leader.
“[This summer helped with] just being able to facilitate a conversation,” he said. “A lot of times to build a community with a good strong bond, guys have thoughts in their minds that they just don’t get out. So, I’ll be able to, as a leader and one of the older guys on the team, facilitate good conversation.”
The coaching staff has noticed the strengthened leadership of its junior defender.
“What you have seen with Kevin is how he has progressed and matured as a player,” said defensive coordinator Bill McGovern. “He understands the game a little more, he’s seeing it quicker, and the leadership out on the field with his practice habits sets a great example for the younger guys. It’s important because he is locked in with what we want to accomplish and he gives 110 percent all the time.”
KPL’s team-first mentality and commitment to solidifying not only his own game but also the unit in general comes after a tenuous battle with injuries last season. The 2011 team’s second-leading tackler was forced to sit out three games, which had a major impact on the junior.
“It was like your brothers were going to war without you,” Pierre-Louis said. “You’re being left behind. You’re stuck on the outside watching and you feel helpless. And for me, personally, that’s the worst feeling.”
Despite missing these three games, Pierre-Louis still finished second on the team in tackles with 74 stops, including 37 solo tackles. His first two seasons culminated in his being named to this year’s CBSSports.com Preseason All-ACC team, as well as a candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award. While these awards indicate his past successes, KPL does not rest on his laurels.