Mychal Sisson and Elijah-Blu Smith. Two seniors, two leaders that take charge in completely different ways.
Smith is always showing off his smile, Sisson’s stares could melt through an opponent’s helmet.
Converted cornerback Elijah-Blu Smith is a lighthearted, funny and easy-going guy.
Sisson, the backbone of the Rams defense, is determined, focused, firm and serious about playing football and improving on a daily basis.
“I consider myself a leader,” Sisson said. “I know that now I gotta be more vocal and get everybody on the same page and encourage people to just keep on fighting through the adversity we’re going to go through. Being that guy that’s going to uplift everybody.”
Sisson can be heard getting on teammates, but he’s also there to galvanize them as well.
Smith’s style is helping teammates improve and leading by example. “It (leadership) means taking on the responsibility of the team and have their interest always. You want to bring guys along with you. When times are rough, don’t get down. Guys look at your body language always, it’s definitely about keeping your head up high and exuding confidence that guys look up to.”
The balance between their leadership styles is good for the Rams, who have struggled mightily in the over the last two years. In 2009 and 2010, the Rams went 3-9 overall both seasons, and last year their defense was ranked a dreadful 104th in the nation in points per game against (34.7) and 103rd in rushing yards allowed (113 per).
While CSU’s defense was despicable in 2010, Sisson and Smith were certainly the two standouts.
Sisson led the nation in forced fumbles last year (7) and he discussed how he’s become one of the fiercest tacklers in all of college football.
“Every day we work on the turnover period and I try to perfect my craft,” Sisson explained with a stern diligence. “You always gotta go out there, coach tells you, ‘When you’re going to tackle somebody try to put your hat on the ball. Or if everybody is holding the guy up, try to rip the ball out.’ Every chance I get that’s what I’m going to try to do. It’s what a lot of guys on the team are trying to do too.”
Smith was a standout safety for CSU the last two years, starting 21 games at free safety, recording 116 tackles, three interceptions and recovering three fumbles.
He’s converting back to cornerback, what Smith calls his natural position, and knows he must work to play well there. He’s working on, “The smaller details, technique wise. Things that can improve me personally…Also, my reads and things like that that come with moving positions.”
And Sisson’s not shy about the work he’s put in either. “In my off time, being a student of the game. Getting into film, watching your opponent and watching everything they do, their tendencies. Just trying to practice better, go out there on the field and practice like I play. You can’t go out there and practice lackadaisical. I go out there and give it my all and take it like a game.”
With all the hard work they’ve both put in over the last three years, it’s no wonder why both Smith and Sisson believe the Rams defense can be much improved.
“We can be very good,” Smith said. “We’re returning a lot of good guys, we’ve got a lot of young play-makers coming up also. I feel guys could step up and for our defense, the sky’s the limit right now. I just can’t wait to see what happens when the games start.”
Sisson went even further in his prediction of CSU’s play on defense. “I think we’ll probably be one of the best defenses in our conference, and try to compete with some of the top defenses in the country. We have the speed, we have the athletic ability, we have the talent. We just have to put it all together and stay together as a unit.”
What makes Sisson so high on the Rams in 2011?
“Everybody feels like we want to be here, we want to be great and do everything it takes to be great. It shows, by us practicing and being here during the summer, being together and doing stuff on our own. I really see a big difference in this year’s team and previous, past years’ teams.”
The athletic ability, talent and, maybe most importantly, camaraderie is there for the Rams this year, and with Sisson and Smith playing prominent positions, CSU will almost certainly improve on defense in 2011.
Colorado State will get a chance to prove how good they will be on September 3, when they open the season on the road versus the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque. The game will be televised on The Mtn. At 4 p.m. MT.
Want more on your Rams?
Check out this interview with senior Rams receiver and Fort Collins legend Matt Yemm.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, Swoosh Nation and Mile High Report.
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