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LEADERSHIP IS A RARE AND wonderful thing that coaches often pray for and give their lives for.

Some people are born with it. Others have to grow into it.

It may be provided by an undersized nose guard who begins playing like a mad man against a murderous running game.

It could be a catcher (like Mickey Cochrane) prodding the pitcher and keeping everyone else up on their toes with a snarling line of chatter.

It could be a coach refusing to let anyone quit against a superior opponent.

Or it may be a sweat-soaked linebacker bringing a badly beaten quarterback back from the dead with a dozen snarled words...the way it happened in the Fresh Meadows of New Jersey on September 24.

With just two minutes to play and the outclassed Jets losing 17-6 to a team that had just intercepted the quarterback (Vinny Testaverde) for the third time, the game appeared over.

Testaverde's body language told the story. He was beaten, and so was his team -- except for one player, Bryan Cox, the linebacker.

Cox thrust his face into the quarterback's mask and bit off a few words swiftly and urgently. He appeared to be reaming out the quarterback, but Testaverde was paying attention.

And when Cox was finished, a strange thing happened. Testaverde reached out and put his right hand on Cox's shoulder. There was absolutely no mistaking the gesture. The quarterback was saying, "Thanks."

Cox had found the perfect words:

"Come on, Vinny, hang in there. Only you can do it for us."

Over the next two minutes, Testaverde completed eight out of nine passes and put two touchdowns on the board. For only the fourth time in NFL history, a team had been able to overcome an 11-point deficit in the last two minutes of a game.

Testaverde got the game ball, of course. But everyone knew what had won the game -- the few magic words that a linebacker who didn't know the meaning of the word quit passed on to the only man in the stadium who could turn the game around.

That, friends, is leadership.
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Title Annotation:New York Jets
Author:Masin, Herman L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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