Kenny Buyers embracing role as leader with ease

Kenny Buyers embracing role as leader with ease

Kenny Buyers embracing role as leader with ease
September 03
10:53 2015

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@reecetapout15

Senior defensive back Kenny Buyers will be the first to admit he isn’t the biggest guy on the field. Officially listed at 5’11, Buyers has known for a long time he would be at a disadvantage playing the sport he loves.

During a practice in the middle of fall camp, Buyers lined up against a wide receiver. After stumbling as the receiver broke into his route, Buyers recovered and made a play on the ball by diving to force an incompletion.

But there was no celebration when the play ended and no high fives to go around. Buyers just walked back to the huddle and got back to work, completely unfazed.

“I have to work harder than everyone else,” Buyers said. “When you’re not bigger than everyone else, you have to be quicker than everyone else, play with a tenacity and a confidence others don’t have.”

After receiving All-State honorable mention in his senior year at L.D. Bell High School, Buyers enrolled at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It took him one semester for the defensive back to realize he made a mistake, and he soon began looking at transfer options.

Although he declined to comment on the exact reason he left the Air Force Academy, Buyers said choosing North Texas was an easy decision because it was his father’s alma mater. After walking onto the team, Buyers earned a scholarship during the offseason.

The rest, as Buyers said, is history.

“I remember knowing I wanted to come home,” Buyers said. “There was a great opportunity at North Texas and I really liked what Coach Mac was doing here.”

It didn’t all come easy for Buyers, though. The defensive back played in only 11 games in 2012 before getting his first start in 2013 against the University of Georgia, a game in which the Mean Green flirted with a huge upset. Buyers started every game since, working his way to North Texas’ fourth leading tackler in 2014 with 55.

Despite his short stature, Buyers blossomed into the de facto leader of the Mean Green defense. Voted to the team’s leadership committee, Buyers said he has always known he is a capable leader.

“I’ve always been really comfortable in leadership roles,” Buyers said. “This offseason I have made sure that I was remaining true to myself. I want to come out here and lead to the best of my ability.”

Head coach Dan McCarney said Buyers’ growth as a leader is what has impressed him most over the past three seasons.

“He’s without question the best leader we have in this program right now,” McCarney said. “Great character, great young man, great academics. He’s a different guy right now than he was last season and that is showing on the field. The team really responds to him.”

The Mean Green is coming off a 2014 season where it finished 4-8, a far cry from its 9-4 record the previous year. North Texas won the Heart of Dallas Bowl that year, a game in which Buyers had the game-clinching interception.

Buyers said this past offseason has been particularly difficult for him, knowing the team didn’t live up to its expectations. He said he knows it was not all his fault, but he still takes some of the blame for the 2014 campaign.

“Last year, it just wasn’t our year,” Buyers said. “We didn’t have a lot of good leaders last year, and not all of that falls on me. But I definitely feel like part of it is my fault because I could have done certain things better. More than anything, I’m ready to correct those mistakes this season.”

Sophomore linebacker Calvin Minor said Buyers’ biggest strength as a leader is his versatility to adapt to different situations.

“He isn’t the kind of guy that just yells at you or just sits back and watches,” Minor said. “He can go out there and yell if he needs to, or he can pull you aside and talk to you. But he always knows something you can get better on, and that goes for everyone, including him.”

Perhaps Buyers’ biggest strength is his confidence, which to this day is a tool he uses to gain an advantage over his opponents.

It’s also the tool he will take with him into his final season in a North Texas uniform as he looks to lead the Mean Green back to a bowl game.

“I know I’m good at what I do and I think you have to have that mentality,” Buyers said. “And I know we can get back to where we were in 2013. I want us back there, and my teammates want us back there. The camaraderie in the locker room has never been higher. We all want it for the man standing next to us.”

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