At first, Michigan State's preseason training looks like the preparation of any other college football team. Two-a-day workouts, mastering schemes, jockeying for position in the depth chart.
But when practice ends, the Spartans are taking a less-traveled path: Requiring seniors to give a public speech to the entire team and coaching staff.
And players aren't tasked with hyping their teammates for the season or imparting a lesson to younger players. Head coach Mark Dantonio gives them specific instructions.
"I want them to give their feelings," Dantonio says, according to a feature by Ben Cohen in The Wall Street Journal.
For athletes accustomed to competing on national TV and in massive stadiums, public speaking is an interesting challenge: It places them out of their comfort zone and forces them to speak on a subject that seems out-of-place on the gridiron.
Dantonio picked up the trick of having players give speeches from one of his mentors, Jim Tressel, who had players give speeches throughout his tenure at Ohio State.
According to Tressel, the experience was the same for every player that stood up in front of his teammates.
"They were all nervous," Tressel tells the WSJ. "Every single one of them."
Players can spend years deliberating over what they will say when their time comes to give a speech.
Topics of conversation could include their heroes, hopes for their own personal legacy, the personal growth they've seen at Michigan State, or other personal subjects that don't typically get much attention in the traditional football setting.
Dantonio and Tressel both believe in the benefits of this practice, which can empower players to speak up in team settings, be more vocal and communicative with coaches and teammates, and learn how to overcome their nerves -- a critical skill on the biggest football stages.
At the same time, players are forced to examine themselves and learn about their teammates. Win or lose, those personal gains will stick with players long after their college careers are over.