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Pennington sees need for community leadership

SOUTH POINT — Chad Pennington didn’t write the book on leadership, but he could certainly teach the class.

Pennington has been a leader at every level of play starting in high school and continuing as a Marshall University quarterback and in the NFL with the New York Jets and his current team the Miami Dolphins.

Speaking on Thursday night at the first annual Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce dinner and silent auction, Pennington stressed leadership as a responsibility to everyone.

“Leadership is something often misunderstood,” said Pennington. “Society sees people with money or with power or with a lot of letters after their name as leaders.

“These might enhance our leadership, but leadership is about influence. Leadership is not optional. We have to decide what role we want to play.”

Former Marshall coach Bob Pruett not only coached Pennington in college but also introduced the quarterback to the crowd. Pruett said Pennington was the leader of the Herd even as a freshman.

Pruett said he had to convince Pennington to accept a red-shirt when he became the Marshall head coach.

“We went down to the last scrimmage and he might have been the best quarterback. He bought into it because of the person he was,” said Pruett. “Everything he does he finds a way to turn adversity into a positive.”

Pennington said that leadership is merely service. He said, “You’ve got to understand that you have to serve to be a leader. We all have the ability to serve. It’s non-judgmental. It resides in all of us.”

The 9-year NFL veteran understands leadership. After playing for eight seasons on New York’s pressure-cooker stage, he was traded to Miami last year and not only led the Dolphins to the playoffs but earned his second Comeback Player of the Year award.

“(Leadership) is not easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It’s like football. Football is not rocket science or I wouldn’t be able to play, but it’s not easy,” said Pennington.

“Every day there is an opportunity to serve. Sometimes it’s just listening to what someone has to say.”

To be a leader, Pennington said there are three main characteristics.

The first is humility and Pennington said it is often misunderstood. He said society sees it as a sign of weakness, but he used a quote to explain his point.

“People don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less,” said Pennington.

The second characteristic is courage.

“You have to be on guard and stand try to what you believe. Sometimes you have to stand alone. Sometimes you have to do what is right,” said Pennington.

The final point in Pennington’s leadership class was the need for perseverance.

“It’s a word that I love,” said Pennington. “Do we look at it as an obstacle or do we look at it as an opportunity. It generates understanding and produces character, and character produces hope.”

Class dismissed.