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Revisiting the leadership question with Texas QB David Ash

Yeah, this again.

Cooper Neill

Over the last 11 months questions surrounding the leadership ability of Texas Longhorns junior quarterback David Ash have finally taken a back seat to other issues.

Now, that's not exactly progress, as the concussion that Ash suffered against BYU last September kept him out for the rest of the season with the exception of a half against Kansas State has led to concerns about the impact of suffering another head injury.

And though the fractured foot he suffered during the spring has seemingly healed well and won't linger, as happens with such fractures, introducing that injury to the equation made for a stressful summer when considering the team's most important player and his role in the 2014 season.

However, all those injury concerns haven't stopped the leadership thing from being a subject of conversation once again with fall camp underway.

Capable of thoughtful, philosophical answers that show Ash to be a young man of some uncommon depth, his answer to the leadership question two years ago was telling about his thought processes.

"People say leadership is a lot of different things, but when it comes down to it, it is a really abstract term that has a different meaning to everyone," said Ash in 2012. "I think guys want to follow the guy who is going to put them in the endzone. That is my goal."

And to be sure, scoring touchdowns is the bottom line for quarterbacks right after wins and losses and scoring touchdowns are how offenses go about winning games. In 2012, Ash did exactly that, helping Texas to big wins against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Oregon State and leading an offense that improved from No. 81 to No. 18 in F/+.

Asked about leadership again on Monday, his response reflected the continued maturity process that has accompanied the passage of time in Austin.

"Leadership is about living out your convictions, you live it out and let people see what you believe by the way you act, the way you work, the way you do things," said Ash. "It is talking to guys, encouraging guys, and being that way every day."

Perhaps it's hardly surprising that Ash's response revolved less around being a vocal leader than being a consistent leader through actions -- he's always been a player whose actions seemed more significant than the type of rah-rah leadership favored by some quarterbacks that can often ring hollow when not backed up by living out those convictions.

Continuing his answer, Ash sounded quit a bit like his new head coach, Charlie Strong.

"That is the thing about football, what makes it hard is being good every day," said Ash. "Everybody throws a good pass now and then, everybody makes a play now and then, but it is about being that way every play consistently. That is how you put together a drive. That is how you put together a string of games that you win."

The final part of Ash's answer demonstrates that the Texas quarterback now has an evolved understanding of his role, one that moves beyond merely scoring touchdowns to impacting his teammates in a positive way.

"As far as being a leader, for me, I just want to live out what I believe in front of my teammates, and I want to encourage them and make them right and raise their level of play," he said. "I want to make them feel confident about what they are doing."

Junior running back Johnathan Gray also weighed in on the subject when asked on Monday.

"David is good," said Gray. "He's not really down on himself anymore and he knows that it's his job as the quarterback to be a leader for the team and step up regardless of what happens. He's looking real good right now, real confident and I can't wait for the season and for him to excel. As any player who doesn't want to leave the game, yes, you're down on yourself."

After the intense rehab Gray went through to recover from his Achilles injury, he can certainly appreciate the struggles Ash went through last season when the starting quarterback wasn't able to play because of his lingering concussion symptoms.

And as much as being a local leader probably still doesn't come naturally for Ash, Gray believes that he's seen improvement in that regard over the last

"At the same time, David knew that he had to stand up for his team and that's what he's doing," said Gray. "David is more vocal now, he's telling people where to be, what to do, and just being more of a quarterback who knows everything and just tells you, boom, boom, boom and let's ride."

"I know David is a strong person, a strong player. It's always one of those deals where you don't want your starting quarterback to have a concussion, but I think David will be more protective of himself and know what he has to do to help the team and still be a part of the team with staying healthy. I'm not worried about David. He's a smart kid and knows what he needs to do."

So while former co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite hardly put the leadership discussion about Ash to rest when he termed it a "wasted conversation" a year and a half ago, the evolution of the quarterback continues.