Any team that reaches a championship game has to have a lot going for it.
There's great talent, of course.
There's great coaching. That's a given.
There's luck. Every team has it. Some of it is good, some bad. The teams that reach championship games have a lot more of the good kind.
Then, there is leadership. Admittedly a more difficult factor to measure, all great teams have an abundance of it — and Illinois State University's football team is no different.
The Redbirds are within one game of grasping the one thing that has eluded the program in decades of playing college football — a national championship.
The players, coaches and staff have that opportunity on Saturday, when they take their 13-1 record and square off against perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State University, which has won this title three years straight.
In a recent interview, ISU coach Brock Spack talked about the importance of leadership and, specifically, how this year's team stacks up in that all-important category.
Rather than singling out two or three key players — often the stars who have stellar years and have received their fair share of accolades along the way — Spack listed a dozen players who have made this team so special.
Special in terms of achieveing success, but also in terms of what they've meant to him as a coach, who, by definition, is the ultimate team leader.
Some of the players are well-known to ISU football fans — starters for much of their careers. But Spack also talked about part-time players and specialty players who have made such an impact on the team's overall success — and to the success of their teammates.
His point was that it takes all kinds of players to make a great football team. Some are just very good all-around athletes, while others embrace their lesser roles because they are natural leaders.
He pointed out how these players supported their teammates, and pushed them to be the best players they can be — even if they were in more of a supporting role.
In the end, it takes all kinds. All kinds of players who, together, make a team. In the case of ISU, a great team.
It's easy to say that, win or lose, this team is full of champions. That may sound like a cliche and maybe it is. But it's also true.
Does the campus and Twin City community want to see the Redbirds win on Saturday? Absolutely. But not as much as the team itself.
But — win or lose — the ISU Redbids will leave Frisco winners, a team full of leaders who worked together to create a magical season. For themselves, and for us.