UH’s Wealth At Inside Linebacker

Bobby Curran
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Friday - March 31, 2006
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It happened in a nanosecond. Third game of the season for Rainier Beach High, first defensive series. Foot planted, joint keeps moving. Goodbye, ACL. The course of the football life of Warrior sophomore linebacker Adam Leonard was altered forever.

“I knew something was wrong,” says the soft-spoken Leonard. “I came out of the game for a series, but I went back in. Played the whole second half. Had eight tackles.”

His season was over, and his options had changed. Prior to the injury, he was being recruited by Cal, Tennessee and Duke. Cal and Tennessee were up front, saying they were looking elsewhere, and wishing him luck. Duke wanted to know if he’d consider prep school. With that kind of knee injury, you just don’t know. They were sure he’d understand.

He understood just fine. The scholarship offers were gone. Time for Plan B. Leonard had seen his teammates have success. One of them, Nate Robinson, went to the University of Washington to play basketball (he’s now with the N.Y. Knicks). He knew he could play. He sent a tape to Dixie Junior College, and that turned out to be a wise move.

“Coach Duff at Dixie saw my tape and told UH coaches about it,” says Leonard. “UH hadn’t been recruiting me, but Coach Jones saw the tape and offered me a scholarship. And here I am.”

When Leonard arrived at UH he was still in rehab from surgery. For many players who come from the Mainland, the toughest adjustment is cultural. That was the easy part for Adam Leonard.

“At Rainier Beach it was mostly black, but we had a lot of Polynesians too,” he says. That made it feel like home. “I like the local food. I eat rice with everything. Except I don’t get the Spam thing.”

The football part was painful though. “I didn’t have any explosiveness,” says Leonard. “It’s hard when you don’t trust (the knee). I couldn’t compete as well as I liked.”

Leonard was getting into games on special teams and defense by the end of the year, but never felt that he was even 80 percent.

“After the season I started working really hard with Coach Mel (de Laura),” says Leonard. “Especially on my hammies and quads.”

De Laura, the strength-and-conditioning coach, knew what had to be done. “I told him don’t hold anything back. Starting in January we picked it up. He fought through some weakness and pain, and now the knee is really strong. He’s a good, hard worker. “

This spring, Adam Leonard will finally be able to show his full range of talents, and that’s a huge relief.

“I’m pain-free,” says Leonard. “My extension is good and the explosion is good.”

He is part of a logjam at inside linebacker where Solomon Elimimian enjoyed a great freshman season, along with Timo Paepule, Branston Satele and expected newcomer Blaize Soares.

Leonard is excited about the possibilities. “We’ve all had a year with the 3-4 defense,” he says. “We’ll play faster and cut way down on the mental errors.”

He’s had great support at home, where his father, Richard, and mother, Lila, are big football fans. “My older brother Timothy played in junior college, but he didn’t love it. And my little brother Silas, he’s the smart one. He wants to be a computer game designer. So as far as football, I’m it.”

His father is originally from Alabama and is a huge fan of the Crimson Tide.

“He promised he’ll root against Alabama on Sept. 2,” says Leonard with a laugh. “Just this once.”

The entire clan will be in Tuscaloosa for the opener this fall. For now, though, it’s time to achieve some goals.

“I want to start, and have more tackles than Solomon,” says Leonard. “And that mean it’s time to get to work.”

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