Leading from the Outside

Austin Eisenhofer ’15 and Katherine Rush ’15


Ellen Kanzinger

Austin Eisenhofer

Austin Eisenhofer ’15Eisenhofer_1

His final season stolen from him due to injury, senior Austin Eisenhofer has only reinforced his commitment to the team as a respected voice of experience.

A Washington and Lee Football captain and tailback, Eisenhofer has transitioned his captaincy from leading by example on the field to encouraging and coaching younger players from the sideline.

In the second game of the season against Sewanee, Eisenhofer was cutting upfield on a jet sweep when he felt his knee pop. He found out later that he had torn his ACL and his meniscus, and would not be able to return for the rest of his final season.

It was the first of many blows the Generals would sustain this year. The team has been wrought by knee injuries like a medieval English town set upon by The Plague. Three plays after Eisenhofer went down, junior linebacker Jake Barr tore his MCL. Right tackle Michael LaSala, a sophomore, also tore his MCL three games later. Prior to all of these injuries, junior running back Dillon Stanfield tore his ACL last season and is still recovering.

With the profusion of injuries, W&L has had to rely on a young core of players to produce. An upperclassman hasn’t touched the ball since week three, according to Eisenhofer. This is where he has proved himself worthy of his captaincy.

Instead of checking out early on what has been nothing short of a disappointing season thus far, he has come to grips with his injury and turned it into a vehicle for positively influencing the younger players.

“Before the season started, my main goals were to lead by example and basically be a focal point for the guys in the backfield, especially for the younger guys to see what kind of work ethic they were going to need to succeed in the future,” he said. “Once I hurt my knee, as a leader I just tried to improve myself in the locker room … and be that encouraging, guiding light.”

He also said that he has transitioned into more of a coach’s role, one that has been appreciated especially by younger players. First-year receiver Witt Hawkins noted the change.

“Since he got hurt he is vocal in a more coaching sense now,” he said. “Hoff is in the front row of every meeting and during practice standing right next to coaches encouraging us and coaching up the younger players…. He’s the veteran voice among all the freshman and sophomore players.”

Eisenhofer had surgery on his right knee three weeks ago last Thursday, and a grisly scar adorns the side of his kneecap as proof. It will be a long recovery process, full of menial and frustrating physical therapy. He said that he knows this, evident by the long sigh and trailing off voice in answer to a question about the uncomfortable subject.

But he can turn even this sobering thought into a positive teaching tool by using himself as an example to teach younger players the value of playing the game.

“He helps in any way he can for the good of the team,” Hawkins said. “He always reminds us to give it our best and never take playing football for granted because you never know when it’ll be your last play.”


Katherine Rush ’15

Although senior soccer captain Katherine Rush has spent the majority of the season injured, she remains a large contributor off the field.

Rush tore her ACL last March, and has been recovering ever since. Having to spend the majority of the season on the sidelines, Rush said that that she has learned to lead the team in other ways.

Rush admitted to being discouraged sometimes when hearing from doctors that she wouldn’t play for the entire season, and that rehab would be painful. Despite this, Rush said that she can always rely on her teammates to forget about her frustration.

“I can’t bring my individual frustration to practice,” said Rush. “Luckily, my teammates are always extremely encouraging and make it easy for me to focus on the team.“

Being a captain from the sidelines has pushed Rush out of her comfort zone, she said, and has enabled her to connect more with her teammates. She said she has learned that leading can be done not only by example on the field, but also with words.

“I realize now that being a captain on the sidelines has allowed me to interact with every player on the team and focus on their individual successes, goals and challenges.”

Rush spoke positively about the team’s determination this year, and she said she has high hopes as they near the end of the season.

“My goal for the team is to win ODACs,” she said. “I feel like there is something really special about our team this year, and everyone has worked hard and stepped up. I would love to see all of this effort culminate in a championship title.”