Ask who's steering the ship for Eastern Kentucky's football team, and Coach Dean Hood won't hesitate to answer: linebacker Jordan Dalrymple.
A 6-foot, 227-pound senior from Chuluota, Fla., Dalrymple plays hard and commands respect, Hood says. Most importantly, he's passionate.
"He just loves the game of football, and he's a classic bang-your-head-on-the-locker, blow-snot-bubbles middle linebacker kind of guy," Hood said. "I think that's why our guys like him. He's a man's man, so to speak."
Dalrymple's uncle, Brooks, played for EKU in the late 1980s. Since he's been on campus, Jordan has played in 33 games over three seasons.
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He made 26 tackles in 2006. After missing the 2007 season because of a back injury, Dalrymple made 68 tackles in 2008, then earned second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference honors when he was credited with a team-leading 85 tackles last year. He finished the 2009 season with at least five tackles in every game, 31/2 sacks and eight tackles for loss.
The hard hitter has a soft heart, though, when it comes to dogs. He and fianceé Amy Albaugh have a Maltese. Or, as Hood likes to say in jest, "a white little sissy dog."
When coach spotted player walking the dog this summer, "I took a picture of him and put it up on the linebackers' meeting room door," Hood said. "And the guys kind of rip him about it — 'There's our starting middle linebacker walking Fluffy.'"
The man's man laughed along with his teammates
"It's funny," he said. "It's always fun and games."
One of eight starters back on defense, Dalrymple sees good things in store for the Colonels this season.
"We have great guys up front. All the D linemen are just firing off the ball and making holes, where we can just run through and make plays," he said. "They've been doing a great job with that since spring, and it's carrying over toward the season."
When Hood talks about steering the ship, he notes that it's Dalrymple who sets the tone. He's also the guy who, during the off-season, calls his teammates out for seven-on-seven work or into the weight room.
"He's not afraid to tell the guys, 'Let's go,' and the guys respond to him," Hood said. "It's hard to find a guy that will jump one of their buddies or teammates and the guys respond instead of getting defensive and taking it personal, but he's able to pull that off."
Dalrymple says he takes his leadership role seriously, asking nothing of anyone that he's not willing to do himself. He says he expects his teammates to get on him if he's "messing up or lollygagging."
EKU's string of 31 winning seasons came to an end with last season's 5-6 finish. That pretty well ends any chance of lollygagging by Dalrymple.
"We've been to hell and back with that and we're looking to start new traditions," he said. "Get back to just good, old-fashioned EKU football, and that's playing hard-nosed, smash-in-your-mouth as hard as we can."