KINGSTON, R.I. - As Rhode Island opened training camp Friday afternoon, head coach Jim Fleming broke away from his traditions, choosing to name seniors Kyle Murphy and Aaron Parker as team captains for 2019.
In previous years, Fleming has held a team vote for the leadership roles. Whether in his first five seasons with the Rams or his two years at Sacred Heart, it was the players identifying the captains. In Murphy and Parker - both of whom were named as STATS FCS Preseason All-Americans earlier in the week - it was an easy break from tradition.
"It was very obvious to me over the course of the summer watching these two guys, they've got the command of the football team," said Fleming, who added that there is wiggle room to identify more captains as camp progresses. "When you mix hard work and talent together, and your most talented guys are the ones who are working the hardest, those are the guys you want your whole team to emulate."
Murphy will once again man the left tackle spot. The Attleboro, Mass. native has started 25 consecutive games on the offensive line.
"Murph has always grown through consistent effort. He brings it day in and day out," Fleming said. "Part of leadership is knowing that you have someone who nobody wants to mess with. This game is very important to Kyle. He has himself ready to go each and every Saturday because of how he carries himself throughout the week."
Parker, the highly productive wide receiver from Prince George's County in Maryland, was named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List this week, identifying him as one of the top 25 offensive players at the FCS level.
"Aaron's development has all come through hard work. He's probably not the fastest guy in the world, but competes every play," Fleming said. "He goes out and catches the rock. He does the things you need to get done on the perimeter blocking wise.
"Here is a guy walking out here with all these incredible preseason accolades, and he could easily be a prima donna. But he just goes to work every day because it is the only thing he knows. That kind of attitude is contagious."
True to form, as Fleming said those words following Friday's practice, Parker could be seen just a few yards away, running through a series of extra routes after the rest of the team had left the field. Joining him were fellow wide receivers Isaiah Coulter, Ivory Frimpong and Ed Lee.
"There are a lot of people with talent in this world, but when you couple an incredible amount of work ethic with the high level of talent those two men (Murphy and Parker) have, you have tremendous examples for everyone to follow."