Skip to main content

Justin Fuente: "Leadership by example is another word for just doing your job."

To think Justin Fuente would headline an AFCA general session talk four years ago would be... improbable.

At that time, Fuente was 7-17 as a head coach, mired in his task of ending Memphis's streak of six consecutive losing seasons. Fuente broke through in 2014, leading the Tigers to a 10-3 record -- the program's first 10-win season since before Hitler invaded Poland -- and a share of the American Athletic Conference championship.

A year later, Fuente to wins in Memphis's first eight games, including a memorable, program-defining 37-24 win over Ole Miss in a packed Liberty Bowl, rising as high as No. 13 in the College Football Playoff weekly poll -- to date the highest any Group of 5 team has ever been ranked in the 3-year history of the rankings.

Fuente parlayed that success into the Virginia Tech job where, in becoming the first coach other than Frank Beamer to lead the Hokies since 1986, he inherited a team coming off two straight 7-6 seasons and led them to a 10-win campaign and the program's first ACC Coastal Division championship since 2011.

All this to say: Fuente knows how to build a program.

Below are chunks of collected wisdom Fuente imparted on a gathering of thousands of coaches at the AFCA Convention earlier this month:

On evaluation vs. recruiting: "There's nothing more important than evaluation in recruiting. I feel like player development is the single most important part of a program."

On having a play for players simply beyond graduation: "Our mission is to get them a degree with a purpose and a plan. Graduation has got to be the minimum standard, because we're going to turn them out into a really tough world. They're not going to care how many touchdowns they caught."

On the importance of attitude: "Attitudes are contagious. Bad attitudes are contagious and good attitudes are contagious. It may be the single most important thing we do."

On mentality: "Do you have a mirror mentality or a window mentality? When things go bad do you point out the window or do you look yourself in the mirror?"

On the power of working together: "The most powerful force in the world are a group of people who believe in something and are willing to sacrifice to get it."

On the importance of vocal leadership: "Leadership by example is another word for just doing your job. Developing leadership on our team we fight day in and day out."