BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — In Reese Dismukes’ mind, leaders fall into one of two groups.
The first are those who take charge by barking out orders and motivating through sheer personality — the “vocal guys.” Then, there is the more understated type, the one others look up to simply because he goes about his business each day with machine-like efficiency, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves.
It just so happens that Dismukes, the junior center considered the leader of Auburn’s offensive line, says he’s a member of both categories.
“I feel like that’s the kind of guy I am,” he said Friday, “and I feel like over time I’ve gained everybody’s trust.”
That Dismukes is in a position of authority may be surprising to some. Just eight days before last year’s season opener against Clemson, Dismukes was arrested on a public intoxication charge, leading to a one-game suspension from then-coach Gene Chizik. He returned to the lineup one week later, but winning back the respect of his teammates and coaches may have taken even longer. But Dismukes left no doubt when the turning point occurred: After suffering a high ankle sprain during the team’s open date prior to taking on Arkansas, the center should have been out for three weeks.
He forged ahead, taking his place in the Tigers’ starting lineup the next week against the Razorbacks, cast and all.
“I think guys really respect when you go out there and you do things that you feel like you have to do,” he said.
His refusal to miss any time led to an even more painful injury, though. In that Arkansas contest, Dismukes dislocated his elbow.
The new injury served him well in one regard, however.
“When you dislocate your elbow, it takes all the pain away from the ankle,” Dismukes said. “When you go out on Saturday, it doesn’t matter how hurt you are. You’ve got adrenaline running, you really don’t feel anything until after the game. I mean, you’ll feel it here and there, but it is what it is.”
Dismukes was equally candid about his first two years as a Tiger. When he arrived, he still had maturity issues to sort out, no different than many other college freshman.
“Coming in two years ago, you’re 18 years old stepping into a whole new world,” he said. “Once you get to where I am now, you see what you have in front of you. As long as you do the right things, and do everything you can to better yourself and everyone else around you, I think you just try to do the best you can.”
Dismukes also got the chance to start with a clean slate with a different coaching staff when Gus Malzahn was hired.
“From Day 1, we told Reese, ‘Hey, what you do from this point forward is all that (offensive line) Coach (J.B.) Grimes, myself and Coach Malzahn care about,’” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “And since we got here, everything has been great. I’ve really been proud of how he handled himself, on the field, off the field, leading guys.”
Dismukes took on the role because, well, somebody had to.
“We were 3-9 last year,” he said. “Somebody’s got to step up, and I kind of put that on my shoulders. As far as the offense goes, trying to put that on my back and get guys going in the right direction and take charge.”
Of course, no one starts 23 games (out of the last 25) by accident. Dismukes may be the anchor of the line, but he’s far from the only experienced player, as four of the Tigers’ five starters return.
It’s a chemistry and comfort level Dismukes couldn’t tout enough.
“We’ve been playing together,” he said. “You look at the guy to your left, and he knows what that look means when he’s down in Baton Rouge (against LSU). It’s obviously going to help not being the first time, so the sky’s the limit there.”
That unlimited potential could also be applied to Dismukes individually. He has already been recognized multiple times heading into fall camp, being named to the Rimington Award watch list, which goes to the nation’s top center, as well as being selected to the All-SEC second-team.
Not that Dismukes really cares about the accolades. He hears about it from others, yes. But he knows the individual honors will come in due time.
Winning games, Dismukes said, is paramount.
“If I’m at top on the end of the year, that’d be awesome,” he said. “My goal is win a championship, and that’s how it’s going to be.”