The Huddle: Leading from the sidelines

The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior running back Jahleel Pinner of Mission Viejo High (Calif.) talks about the patience he exercised while waiting out the two weeks during which he was sidelined with an ankle injury and his initiative in being proactive as a peer mentor to the pair of underclassmen charged with replacing him during that time. A 5-foot-11, 220-pounder with a 3.0 grade point average, Pinner has committed to a scholarship to USC, where he has designs on being a business major.

Pinner ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, when he helped lead the Diablos to a 13-1 mark and a runner-up finish in its Pacific 5 conference. This year, Pinner has rushed for six scores, having been sidelined with an injured right ankle for the last two games played by the Diablos (5-2).

"When I got hurt, we were winning the game, but I kept playing during the game and finished the game and we won that game," said Pinner of a victory over Long Beach Poly. "But I was preparing myself mentally, because knew that I would be out the for pretty much the next two weeks or so with the ankle."

Pinner was relegated more or less to the role of student-assistant coach. "I adjusted pretty well," said Pinner, who remained a positive influence despite being kept off the gridiron.

"Being a starter and a captain who is out, you definitely have to keep your confidence up," said Pinner. "Otherwise, confidence might go down, and the morale might go down. So I spent a lot of time telling my teammates to keep their confidence up and advising the backup running backs what to look for."

Sophomore Hunter Remington and junior Marcus Collins were the focus of much of Pinner's instruction.

"The sophomore, Hunter, hasn't really seen that much action, so I knew that it would be critical for me to talk to him and tell him what to look for and to just tell him to run hard. I was like, 'If this happens, a cut-back is going to be open on the backside,' or telling them which holes to hit," said Pinner.

"For Marcus, he's seen a little varsity action, but not as a full time player. So it was just telling him what to do and telling him about cutbacks and then listening to him and answering any questions that he might have."

Pinner returned to action after two weeks, but he learned a lot about himself.

"I was just trying to keep the pressure off of them a little bit. Just helping the kids. Teaching them was a positive for me," said Pinner. "Even though, personally, I didn't like being held out of the games or being on the sidelines, I think that I grew as player from the experience."

ROLE MODEL: Maurice Pinner, father. "Definitely my dad. He grew up without a dad, and yet he's always told me, 'I'll never let you down and I'm always here for you.' He's the one that has always helped me through my conditioning and setting things up for me. He's responsible for me being who I am and having the ability to play at the level I'm at right now."