He followed in his father's footsteps. Now, this Calgary football player is headed to the NFL

·4 min read
Deane Leonard watched with his family as he was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday as part of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here, he receives a call from the team, informing him he has been selected. (Submitted by Kenton Leonard - image credit)
Deane Leonard watched with his family as he was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday as part of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here, he receives a call from the team, informing him he has been selected. (Submitted by Kenton Leonard - image credit)

The University of Calgary Dinos' opening game of the 2019 football season was a close one. The Alberta Golden Bears were driving down Foote Field in Edmonton late in the fourth quarter, with the Dinos holding a three-point lead.

With only nine seconds on the clock, Golden Bears quarterback Brad Launhardt tried to lead his receiver out of bounds, with no luck — there was Dinos defensive back Deane Leonard, who picked off the ball and took it back for a touchdown, ending the game.

"It was just, like, sometimes you couldn't explain why he was where he was," said Matthew Berry, assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator of the Dinos.

"He just had amazing instincts on the field, and all of a sudden was around the ball. So you knew that he was a guy on a different level."

Submitted by David Moll
Submitted by David Moll

On Saturday, Leonard became the first Dino ever to be drafted by an NFL team, taken by the Los Angeles Chargers in the seventh round of the draft.

Leonard doesn't have a reputation for being an emotional person. Berry described him as a quiet man with a great personality.

But in a video clip of Leonard receiving a call from the Chargers, he wipes tears from his eyes as his family cheers — his dream come true.

WATCH | The moment Deane Leonard received a call from the Los Angeles Chargers, informing him he had been drafted:

"It was really stressful. I was watching the TV all day. Seeing the picks go by, it kind of got more stressful by the hour," Leonard told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"I got that phone call, and it was just kind of like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It's just nice to see it with my family. It was a big moment for all of us."

Like father, like son

In playing as a defensive back, Leonard followed in the footsteps of his father, Kenton Leonard, who played from 1991 to 1997 with the Calgary Stampeders.

"I was always, you know, a big believer in Deane," Kenton said. "I mean, he can tell you, I'm probably his No. 1 fan."

When his son was born, he was just seemingly "built different."

"Like, he was just muscles when he came out. It was almost nine pounds of muscle," Kenton said. "I had this dream, for quite some time. I sort of kept it to myself. But I kind of knew what I was looking at."

Google Meets
Google Meets

He reserved his football guidance for just one day, when he brought him to the backyard and told him: Here are some cones, here are some drills. If you want to get somewhere, you need to get good at this.

"That's all I ever said to him. I never helped him, I never critiqued him," he said. "The next week, he was in the backyard, every day, doing those drills."

Kenton recalled the first game his son played defensive back, in which he made some plays on the field.

"And I'm going like, how does this kid know how to backpedal already?" he said. "So, you can see that he was gifted, in a way, with his footwork."

Next steps

Going from college to the NFL is a significant leap for any player. Leonard said he'll apply the same mentality he did when he moved from the University of Calgary to the NCAA.

"I kind of have gone through these motions before. Just got to keep your head down and keep on working," he said.

Leonard will fly to Los Angeles on May 11 to join the team for training and rookie mini-camp.

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

He said he recognizes that most rookies need to prove themselves on special teams before they actually take the field.

"Whatever they ask me to do, I'm willing to do, and put my best effort at it," he said.

He's likely to have more than a few fans in Calgary following his journey through the NFL. But perhaps none will be watching as closely, or rooting more fervently, as his father.

"We're just super proud. We wish him the best. And you know, when it's your kid … he did all the work. He made this happen by himself," Kenton said. "I think he's still got the opportunity to be even better. So we just have to wait to see what happens."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting