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The BC Lions certainly hope so.
The CFL team announced Wednesday the signing of Leonard, a four-year starter at Arkansas State who worked out for the Lions at a freeagent camp in Atlanta on April 16.
But the Lions have had their eye on Leonard for more than a year. Player personnel director Roy Shivers watched him at Arkansas State’s Pro Day last March, when Leonard was still recovering from a knee injury suffered late in 2009, his senior year with the Red Wolves.
Leonard was also on the radar of the Calgary Stampeders and was supposed to go to their free agent camp in Orlando when the Lions informed him that he already had been placed on their negotiation (protected) list.
“I was a dual threat [passing and running] guy in college, and the injury slowed me down a little bit,” Leonard explained.
“I wasn’t mobile enough by the time of the NFL draft to get back to the times I’d been running in college. So, I took a year off to focus and train and it’s worked out great. My times are faster than they were in college. I’m in better shape.”
As a college senior, Leonard was timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds before his knee injury occurred. An all-around athlete, he lettered in football, track, baseball and basketball for each of his four high school years in Covington, La., a suburb of New Orleans.
Besides big-game experience against the likes of Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, Leonard had earned a degree in business and corporate finance, and completed the requirements for a master’s in business administration, before the end of his graduating year at ASU. He has interests in financial forecasting and insurance and co-owns a sports training company that works with high school athletes in the New Orleans area.
Leonard turns 24 on March 28.
“My mom [Leslie Thompson] made me realize I have to work hard for everything I earn,” Leonard explains.
“I’m a competitor, and every day I set my new goals for myself. I was a four-year starter in high school and a four-year starter in college, and I’m not going up there [Canada] to sit on the bench.” The Lions also announced that import receivers Carl Sims of Western Illinois and Dobson Collins of Gardner-Webb will join Leonard for the start of rookie camp, June 2 in Kamloops.
A fourth free agent, defensive back Marquez Hall of Tennessee State, also has been added to the team’s rookie camp roster.