2023 five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava, a Tennessee Vols commit, has been widely praised as a great leader throughout the recruiting process.

This week, Iamaleava showed everyone that it’s not just lip service.

Iamaleava made the difficult choice to skip the Elite 11 tournament so he can compete with his volleyball team (Nico is one of the top volleyball players in the nation).

“My obligations were to my [volleyball] team and unfortunately Nationals were at the same time,” said Iamaleava in a statement. “This is my last tournament with my brothers and I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.”

Iamaleava isn’t going to be a professional volleyball player. His future is in football. And by skipping the Elite 11, it means that Iamaleava could miss out on a ratings bump or additional exposure. He’s already committed to the Vols so it’s not massively important for him to get a ratings bump, but we’ve still seen plenty of recruits who place a high importance on such events.

Nico, however, isn’t worried about the personal accolades — he just wants to be there for his team. Which is exactly what a great leader should do.

This decision from Iamaleava reminds me of a story about Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow when he was still a high school student who was being recruited to Ohio State by Urban Meyer.

Burrow attended a football camp in Columbus and he had a basketball game in Indianapolis later that day. Instead of skipping the game (which everyone would’ve understood), he made the three-hour drive — after a long hot day on a football field — to play with his teammates.

From FanSided.com:

Going into his senior year, Urban Meyer wants him up there for every passing camp,” Skinner said. “Well, we had a pretty intense off-season for basketball and he never missed any of it. He had a passing camp at Ohio State one morning. I don’t know how many balls he threw in the heat of the day. When it was over, he got in a car with his mom and drove from Columbus to Indianapolis because we had a basketball event. There was no way he was gonna let his guys down by not showing up. We were literally out in the middle of the floor getting ready to jump center and he’s running onto the floor tying up his shoes.”

I see the same traits in Iamaleava that I saw in Burrow — selflessness, competitiveness, eagerness to lead, etc.

It’s not fair to put Burrow-like expectations on Iamaleava just yet. But it should be encouraging for Tennessee fans to know that they have one of the best leaders in the nation on the way to Rocky Top.

Featured image via Twitter.com