Ryan Palmer: Carrying the senior torch
Oct. 2, 2008
Rafiq el Arculli, Texas Media Relations
With each new football season that dawns, new faces are seen in roles that have persisted since the beginning of the Longhorns' century-old football program.
You won't see these roles labeled on rosters, flip cards or any printed material. Instead, they belong to student-athletes that have put in the dedication and time to be granted these responsibilities.
This year, stepping into the leadership role of the secondary is senior cornerback Ryan Palmer. Palmer has a unique challenge being the only senior in the group and leading a young, but extremely talented group in the secondary.
"I think it's a different challenge for me leading a group of young guys, because I always used to be the young guy," stated Palmer. "But now, I have to step up and be the leader and lead by example."
Defensive backs coach Duane Akina only had praise for the fifth-year senior, and acknowledges that Palmer has evolved into a role model for the younger players.
"Ryan has really grown and matured in a lot of ways," said Akina. "Being the only senior, he has really become the big brother. I've seen dramatic improvement in his maturity level, and his play on the field really has shown that."
His father, Dennis Palmer, admits that his son is a different person now than who he was when he first step foot on the Forty Acres.
"When Ryan first got to UT, he was a little immature, and he liked to play and joke around," explained his father. "But I started to notice that he was changing last year. He's now more mature, and that's because he's just growing up. That's what it is."
The leadership role in the secondary has been handed down senior-to-senior for the past six years. In Palmer's time at Texas, the tradition was started by Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff, and then was passed down to Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross. Michael Griffin and Brandon Foster earned the role last year, and Palmer has now accepted it from his life-long friend in Foster.
Palmer gives credit to the long line of leaders who came before him that have helped him achieve the status he holds today.
"Those guys were all incredible leaders, and I took bits and pieces from all of them," explained Palmer. "They led by example and none of them ever got in trouble, so that's what I try to do.
"Having those guys in front of me definitely made it easier for me to handle the leader role. It elevated my game and now it is elevating the games of all of the younger guys behind me."
Coach Akina could not agree more with the way Palmer has played so far this season.
"He had some great models ahead of him, and I think he has really learned his lessons well," acknowledged Akina. "The main thing is that he has applied them this year. He is probably our most consistent player back there, and he's really helping these young guys out."
His father says that the advice he has given his son helped Ryan develop into the type of leader that he is today.
"I told him that he's a senior now and that he needs to step up and be a leader," stated Dennis Palmer, who also played cornerback at Bishop College in Dallas and spent time with the Green Bay Packers. "That's what I've tried to instill in Ryan, and I'm definitely seeing it."
For Palmer, finding comfort and guidance has never been more than an arm's length away, as he has always had his good friend, Brandon Foster, by his side. The two have known each other since elementary school and have often competed alongside each other. The duo participated on their high school track team and stuck together as both came to the Forty Acres to join the football program.
"Brandon and I were really close, so just watching the things that he did last year helped me out," said Palmer. "He gave me a lot of pointers and a lot of keys to what to do."
However, following the conclusion of last season, Foster has since graduated and has joined the scout team for the Indianapolis Colts. The two remain close and still offer each other advice and guidance.
"There's nothing too different now, he texts me all the time, telling me what is going on," Palmer said of his friendship with Foster. "Our chemistry and friendship are still strong, even though he's off doing his thing in the NFL. I wish him the best and I know he wishes me the best. Our friendship is always going to be strong."
Palmer credits his family for being the biggest influence in his life and the ones who have shaped him into who he is today.
"My dad always pushed me on the football field," Palmer said of his childhood. "He told me that I could be something special if I kept working hard, and to never let anyone underestimate me because of my size.
"My parents, my brother and my little sister have always stayed behind me, and we are all accountable for each other. We're all in it together with my family."
His father could not be happier to hear those words.
"That's one thing about this family - we all stick together," said Dennis Palmer. "We'll always have each other, no matter what. I've been coaching Ryan since he was six, and I couldn't be more proud of him for what he has accomplished up to this point."