Click here to view photos from Football's Aug. 19 practice.
MEQUON, Wis. – Joe Paul has seen the field only one way over the past few seasons, from behind the quarterback. This season his perspective of the game will dramatically change, as the senior will help the team in an area of need – linebacker.
After CUW lost its top four tacklers from a season ago due to graduation, the coaching staff along with Paul, had several meetings to discuss what was best for the team. The lead-by-example student-athlete gave no qualms that the switch was necessary in helping the defensive unit.
"He is probably the most intelligent linebacker we have," defensive coordinator Adam Walker said. "His athleticism does nothing but enhance the linebackers. Joe is helping all of the younger guys and making it easier on them so they can fly around on the field."
It's never easy to make such a dramatic change as Paul (West Bend, Wis.) is going to do this season, but he is a dynamic player who has the ability to do so. The West Bend, Wis., native is taking each day in stride, learning in the meeting rooms and on the practice field.
"Everything is going great so far," Paul said. "The meetings are going well, especially learning the details of the linebacker position. Right now, I just need to get a lot of reps in practice and work on my read steps. I feel confident in pass coverage, but need to continue to work on run coverage."
CUW lost a combined 294 tackles from Matt Upson, John Palese, Anthony Hoitink and Matt Lechler who played a variety of positions last season. It may take fans a game or two to adjust to the new names announced on the defensive side of the ball, but Paul is one that will be heard quite often.
"It is going to be a challenge," Walker said. "We explained to the guys that starting spots are wide open and they are going to have to compete for those spots. That is what our program is about, competing with each other for playing time. We play multiple linebackers and we need the depth."
Paul is penciled in a starter, but what is more important beyond his ability to make tackles or grab interceptions, will be his leadership with the younger linebackers and those growing in the program around him.
"Joe has welcomed the leadership challenge," Walker said. "He is already helping out the younger guys with their assignments on the field, even with himself being a first-year linebacker. He has challenged himself to understand the system and he is a lot further than I anticipated. I am looking forward to contact drills so we can find out what kind of linebacker he is."
There is one thing aspect of Paul's game that will never be taken for granted, his drive to succeed and make the team better.