Uniting a group of players into a winning football team might seem like an immense responsibility to some, but for senior starting running back Anthony Alridge, being a leader is nothing new.
Alridge, who is from Fort Worth, grew up in a close-knit family as the second oldest of five siblings.
"I have a whole heap of brothers and sisters," Alridge said. "I have three brothers, two adopted, and two sisters. There’s never a dull moment."
As children, Alridge and his siblings never lacked something to do.
"We used to play baseball in our room. The ball was a sock and the bat was a tennis racket," Alridge said. "We broke a lot of windows."
As they got older, they channeled their energy into sports.
"All my brothers and sisters ran track. I ran track all four years, and I played basketball my freshman year," Alridge said.
Alridge also started playing football as a freshman at Denton High School.
"I always watched football and wanted to play, but I never thought I’d be in college playing football," Alridge said. "When I was a senior my coach told me I could do it. I didn’t get focused until senior year."
After graduation, Alridge arrived at UH determined to become a better player.
"I learned so much from high school and tried to transfer it so I won’t be so big-headed. A lot of people who were stars in high school come to college thinking they’re going to be the stars," Alridge said. "Here, it’s different because you got so many people who can play. I learned to be level headed. Be confident, but level headed because you can’t get cocky at this level."
Alridge credits his family with helping him stay grounded.
"My dad’s my best friend. We talk about everything," Alridge said. "Before every game I call my dad. We pray and then I go out on the field."
His younger brother, Michael, is another inspiration.
"My little brother goes to every game. He works overtime so he can come to the games," Alridge said. "It motivates me. I love to see my little brother proud of me. I love him just as much as he loves me."
For Alridge, being away from his hometown is hard, but he’s found community in being a part of the UH football team.
"My team is definitely a family. When I need something I can always call one of my teammates. If they need something they can come to me," Alridge said. "Especially now, being a senior leader, I’m trying to be there for them."
Like true brothers, the members of the football team endure much teasing from each other.
"I give everybody nicknames," Alridge said. "I call Jeron Harvey ‘J1.’ Donnie Avery’s name is ‘DA’ or ‘too sexy.’ SirVincent (Rogers) is ‘the athlete.’ He can play any position; that’s what he likes to tell everybody."
When you have so many different personalities on one team, not everyone is going to get along 100 percent of the time, but they’re still there for one another.
Alridge looks to head football coach Art Briles as an example of what a leader should be.
"Anytime you need him his door is always open. He’s not just a coach that just relies only on your athletic ability," Alridge said. "He wants you to get your degree. He wants you to succeed in life after football. It’s not just about football with him. It’s about being a family, being a man as you grow in life."
Alridge says the UH football team is ready for the upcoming season.
"We’re more of a unit than last year because everybody wants to win," Alridge said. "This is the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of, the most talented, the most athletic, even with the losses (of players) from last year."
For Alridge, however, the fans also play a significant role in the team’s success.
"I love seeing our crowd. I love when the stadium is packed," Alridge said. "It makes me want to play that much harder. I never want to leave a game feeling like I could have done something more to help us win."
As a senior, Alridge knows it’s his last chance to make an impact on UH, but it is something he looks forward to.
"Being my last year, that’s an emotional thing. I’m going to give them everything I have," Alridge said. "I play with high emotion, that’s what coach (Briles) tells me all the time. I always play the same way. I always leave everything on the field. I don’t know how to play any other way."