Owen Pappoe was named a team captain for the second consecutive season on Tuesday - something the senior does not take for granted.
“It means the world to me, especially because it’s my second year straight,” Pappoe said. “I just want to thank my teammates for believing in me to help lead this team to go to the right place, but I’m kind of lost for words and I’m really excited about it.”
Pappoe played the opening three games of the 2021 season before sustaining an ankle injury against Penn State. Pappoe returned against Ole Miss, but only played against the Rebels and the following game against Texas A&M before missing the final four games with the same injury.
Even if it was from the sideline, Pappoe has always brought a presence of leadership, but now the veteran linebacker is focused on setting the tone for the guys below him on the field and in practice.
“People are going to look to me for answers, especially the young guys that are just coming in,” Pappoe said. “It's my responsibility to come in and set the example every day and show them how to be a successful college football player.”
With the losses of veteran linebackers Zakoby McClain and Chandler Wooten, Auburn’s linebacking core is young and in need of a vocal leader. Cam Riley, Wesley Steiner and Desmond Tisdol, who all came to Auburn together, are some of the young guys in that group that look up to Pappoe.
Riley has practiced with the first-team defense during the fall, and with Pappoe finally back, Riley is comfortable with an established linebacker next to him.
“It feels good to have someone like him,” Riley said. “He’s a freak. He’s a student of the game. He’s going to make sure we know everything. He takes his time to take us in the room to study. He makes sure we’re all on track, so I’m just happy to have Owen Pappoe, and it’s a blessing to play right beside him.”
With an entire group following his lead, Pappoe is not shying away from the role of captain, a title he has grown into while at Auburn.
“Naturally I’m a quiet guy,” Pappoe said. “But my coaches and my teammates challenged me to be more vocal too, so I came out of my shell a lot more.”
The senior linebacker garnered praise from his teammates too - which explains why he was selected by his teammates to be a captain.
“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve played with,” EDGE Eku Leota said. “He’s the quarterback of the defense.”
Though being off the field was not ideal for Pappoe, he gained some valuable lessons while watching from the sideline, such as “different ways to study film” and “becoming more like a coach.” Pappoe built that valuable coach's mentality while injured, but now he’s ready to hit the gridiron.
“I’m excited to get back,” Pappoe said. “Really excited to get back, it’s time to work.”
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Jacob is a sophomore from Leeds, Alabama. This is his second year with The Auburn Plainsman.