Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kickin' Back with the Bucs' Brian Leonard

Bucs running back Brian Leonard remains close to his former Rutgers teammates, including with his charity bowling event.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Bucs running back Brian Leonard remains close to his former Rutgers teammates, including with his charity bowling event.

The Bucs' Brian Leonard has carved out a niche for himself, now in his seventh season in the NFL as a backup running back. The former Rutgers standout, who came back to Greg Schiano this fall, talked with Greg Auman about his New Jersey ties, his one career NFL touchdown and how he responds to criticism of his longtime coach.

 

Your relationship with Rutgers actually goes back to before Schiano was there. Your brother, Nate, had a bad knee injury as a high school senior. Rutgers was the school that stuck with him and honored its scholarship offer, and you remembered that loyalty.

That was basically my whole decision. When Schiano came in, it made it easier, turned the whole program around. We grew up in New York, wanted to go to Syracuse, and Syracuse took his scholarship away because of a torn ACL. I really appreciated that Rutgers kept his scholarship, and it got me to go there and play with my brother.

 

What was your first interaction with Schiano?

He came to watch my brother play, and he found out my 40 time and offered me a scholarship on the spot. It was an amazing feeling. You dream your whole life to play Division I football. My first scholarship, junior year.

 

People outside Rutgers don't understand it. But this is a really close group of players and alums, no?

Some of my best friends still are guys I played with at Rutgers. We have that family foundation there. To have a group of guys like that to change the program around, you remember those guys forever. To this day, I have a charity bowling event in New York City at Chelsea Piers. There's about 25 NFL guys there, and about 20 of them are Rutgers guys. We all hang out and work out together in the offseason.

 

How do you like Tampa?

I'm liking it a lot better now that the weather is starting to cool down. It was tough at first. I'm not used to that type of weather. I'm starting to like it a lot. The fans are great. I wish we could turn it around and get some wins not only for us, but for the fans and this whole program.

 

Is it hard to hear the criticism of Schiano; fans asking for change with where the team is right now?

The guys in this locker room, they know Coach Schiano, know who he really is. He's not throwing anyone under the bus. He's honest, and some guys might not like that because he might be too honest. I like that in a coach. It's sad to see what some of these people are saying about him. They're not true. I wouldn't be here today, playing in the NFL for seven years, if it wasn't for him. You see all these Rutgers guys in the league, and it's not like they go in and play one year. They last in the league. Not every team has that many guys in the league, and it has to do with the preparation we had at Rutgers.

 

You've had hard luck with touchdowns: one in 303 touches. Tell me about that score, 2010, playing for Cincinnati at Cleveland.

Just a little shovel pass up the middle. I was basically wide open, scored a touchdown. It has a lot to do with my opportunities. Right now, it's a lot of pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield on third down. There aren't a lot of routes designed to go to me. But a little checkdown, and you get a first down doing that.

 

At Rutgers and even early in your NFL days, you were famous for the "Leonard Leap," hurdling over would-be tacklers. Still have it in you?

Absolutely. I've done it probably eight or nine times in the league; just not here yet. People from North Jersey, from Rutgers, they see me on the street, and it's "Leaping Leonard!"

 

Some quick word association, and we'll do it Rutgers/Jersey style. Ray Rice?

Talented.

 

Jeremy Zuttah?

Tough.

 

Coach Schiano?

Mentally tough.

 

James Gandolfini?

Jersey guy.

 

Chris Christie?

President. Eventually.

 

Peter King nominated you for Sportsman of the Year back in 2006, and people really liked the everyman aspect of who you are. Your mom was an accountant, dad a cable guy. Both still working?

Dad's retired now, retired just last year. My mom's still an accountant at the paper mill.

 

What's one thing you've been able to do for them, making a living in the NFL as you have?

Just a few weeks ago, I bought them a lake house in upstate New York. It's called Selby Lake. They're loving it. They're up there right now. They have their old house, but it's a beautiful lake in New York. Places rarely go on sale up there, and everyone wants property up there. My parents called me up and said a place went on sale. They looked at it and loved it. They sent me a couple of pictures. We got it. It was awesome. It's for me, too, eventually. It's for them, but when I have kids, I want them to be able to go up to Grandma's house at the lake.

.Biography

Brian Leonard

Position: Running back

Age: 29 (born Feb. 3, 1984)

Hometown: Gouverneur, N.Y. (about 106 miles northeast of Syracuse)

College: Rutgers

Drafted: Second round (52nd overall) by the Rams in 2007

Acquired: Signed April 2, 2013

Kickin' Back with the Bucs' Brian Leonard 11/02/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 2, 2013 4:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.