February 26, 2016
Fuente addresses Corps of Cadets
Tech head coach gives leadership presentation

Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission from The Collegiate Times. Written and originally posted by Libby Howe, Corps of Cadets beat writer



This Thursday, Virginia Tech football’s new leader, Head Coach Justin Fuente spoke to the Corps of Cadets as part of the Leaders In Action program. This academic program consists of a series of speakers who provide leadership training in the form of real-life experiences.

Fuente boasts an impressive career as a football quarterback, beginning with a record-breaking 11 touchdown passes during his freshman year playing for Oklahoma. This would be the first of many achievements, and eventually, Fuente’s experience on the field led to his equally impressive career as a football coach. Fuentes ended his final season as head coach for the Memphis Tigers with a 9-3 record and a 63-0 win over Southern Methodist University.

“That would be a lot of pushups,” Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart commented during his introduction, referencing the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets football game tradition of doing as many pushups as there are cumulative points after every touchdown.

Fullhart’s introduction briefly summarized traditions such as this as well as others that comprise the long-lasting relationship between the Corps and Hokie football.

“Whether it be the regimental band, the Highty Tighties, who support the team; the Skipper team firing the cannon each time we score; the cadets receiving the flag from the team as you enter the stadium; to the Color Guard and Gregory Guard on the field; our yell team, Espirit de Corps; along with the entire regiment, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the loudest and most loyal cheering section you would ever hope to have.”

Fuente began his remarks by saying that he recognizes and deeply appreciates the connection between the football team and the Corps and looks forward to growing that relationship during his time at Virginia Tech before describing how he got to Blacksburg.

Despite his accolades, Fuente claims that he went into football for the wrong reason. He loved football and everything that comes with it but learned that coaching was his true passion.

“I loved the game, but the very first time that I ever taught somebody how to do something, and then saw them do it and be successful, I was hooked,” Fuente said. “The intrinsic value that I got from instructing someone or pushing someone or helping someone achieve something that they didn’t think they could or had not had success with before. This was my passion.”

Fuente’s passion and commitment to improving and developing others reflects his leadership philosophy.

Fuente shared with the Corps the same presentation and lesson that he is currently introducing to Virginia Tech’s football players. These different leadership philosophies tie together into the team’s “covenant.”

“Attitude reflects leadership, and attitudes are contagious. We all know this,” Fuente said. “There are two important things, in my opinion, in this world that we have control over, and No. 1 is our attitude. No. 2 is effort.”

Fuente also asked the audience to assess whether he or she had a mirror or a window mentality. In reaction to failure, a window mentality will “finger point” and “blame things on each other,” while a mirror mentality reflects on personal performance.

“When things don’t go well, is your reaction to look in the mirror and address that person and say, ‘What can I do to fix this? How have I let the group down? How can I be more effective?’” Fuente said.

Continuing his use of analogies, Fuente asked the audience to be a pig rather than a chicken, saying that when it comes to breakfast, a chicken is involved while a pig is committed.

“The pig is all in for breakfast. The chicken is just involved a little bit, gives some eggs, and goes about its day. That pig has to give a whole lot more for you to have breakfast,” Fuente said. “So are you involved or committed? What will you sacrifice so you can all succeed?”

Fuente also encouraged leadership through trust by asking, “Who do you trust to pack your parachute? I can only imagine packing that thing; I just know that the list of people I would trust to pack that sucker is pretty small. Are you one of those trustable people?”

Finally, Fuente stressed that leadership by example is not enough.

“Ultimately, to lead you can’t just be a good example. You’re going to have to take action, do something," Fuente said. "You’re going to have to open your mouth.”

The leadership program that Fuente plans to establish as the foundation for Virginia Tech’s football team shares many of the same core values of the Corps of Cadets, a fact certainly recognized by the cadets in the audience.

“We’re completely different; they’re all about football and we do Corps things, and it’s cool to see the similarities between us down to really the core of our programs,” said Ean Ormsby, freshman international business major.

Fullhart thanked Fuente at the conclusion of his presentation and reiterated Ormsby’s perception of the similarities between the programs.

“The principles you’ve talked about today, the action you’ve talked about today, resonates with this audience,” Fullhart said. “This is what it’s about. This is why this program exists. It’s why their program exists. It’s to develop young men, and, in this case, young men and women, for leadership roles around this entire nation and the world.”

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