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Offensive Line Coach Kris Sweet Discusses The Importance Of Leadership In Football

Kris Sweet | Offensive Line Coach | Howard University

I believe leadership is something that comes natural, you have it or you don’t. I think a leader is someone no matter the situation that is the person others look to for answers or actions.

Kris Sweet

Offensive Line Coach

Howard University

× The interview with Kris Sweet was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

As an offensive line coach, you are tasked with the job of leading the most important unit of players on offense. What does leadership mean to you, and how is it that it can be taught?

I believe leadership is something that comes naturally, you have it or you don’t. I think a leader is someone no matter the situation that is the person others look to for answers or actions.

In my opinion, a person is a leader due to 4 circumstances

  1. Personality, people like that person
  2. Experience and knowledge or vision
  3. Work ethic
  4. Title and position only, these leaders generally have little respect from others

You were with the Calgary Stampeders from 2007-2011, having been part of their 2008 Grey Cup win and a lot of success with the team. Who were the three best leaders you met during your time with the Stampeders and what did they do to exemplify outstanding leadership?

1John Hufnagel (HC 2008-2015 /GM 2015-present) – hands down the best at his craft in the CFL. Great person, great friend and someone who taught me so much. Huff created an environment where I only had to coach my position and help in the draft process. As a coach he eliminated distractions.

2 Tom Higgins (HC- 2007)- he was great in allowing his people to focus on their jobs and their families.

3 George Cortez (Offensive Coordinator/Associate HC 2007-2009) as well. George was and is very intelligent. His work ethic is outstanding and his preparation was amazing.

After departing from Calgary, you spent time in Saskatchewan in 2012 where the team was struggling significantly. How did you use what you learned about leadership in a successful organization like Calgary to handle adversity with the Riders?

I was only there for 1 season, unfortunately.

I don’t know how much I helped or impacted the club but I do take pride in a few players staying in touch with me and their comments on how I helped them as a player.

When I was in Montréal and the Riders were holding a reunion of the 2013 grey cup teams, 4 of the old players were waiting outside the Alouettes locker room after warm-ups to say hello to me.

What people don’t realize is those kinds of gestures mean a lot to some of us coaches.

What are three key things that someone who plays on the offensive line would learn about leadership at the position?

1 UNSELFISHNESS- it is absolutely necessary to be a selfless individual as the success of the entire offence relies on you doing your job together, for each other and everyone else.

2 MENTAL TOUGHNESS- Being such an important position can be very tough. You will get beat at times and have to rebound from mistakes. This requires being able to have a short memory to move on and focus on the next play.

3 WORK ETHIC- Offensive linemen must be hardworking, which goes without saying for any high level athlete. But here it cannot be understated, as you are the heart and soul of the offense’s success.

How have you learned to handle adversity throughout your coaching career?

Coaching is just a job; you are replaceable no matter what.

You have to be able to move on.

Nothing lasts forever and there are roads leading in and out of town so you always know one day you will be leaving on your own or someone tells you to leave.

It’s a job and nothing more.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

It was quite enjoyable to speak with Kris Sweet about his insight on coaching offensive lineman and what leadership means in this position. Playing offensive line is a hard and important position in football, which requires being a leader. Leadership is a desirable quality for athletes in any sport, but especially for football and on the o-line. Kris exemplifies this in his leadership as a coach and has learned from some of the best minds in football during his coaching career in the CFL. His understanding of the reality of coaching football as a job with a limited amount of time has helped him succeed in all the colleges and CFL teams he has been part of. 

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