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First Dino selected in the NFL Draft

By Rodrigo Verney, May 24 2022

It is the dream of every athlete to make it to the big leagues. Bringing your talent to where you will be most recognized, is the goal of every professional. However, the path to the big leagues isn’t as straightforward as many agents would make it seem. It is an experience that is reserved for a very select number of elite groups of people. To make it anywhere near it is an achievement in it itself, but to make it — it’s a game-changer.

The Los Angeles Chargers have picked up Dinos prodigy football player Deane Leonard in the 2022 NFL Draft. The University of Calgary alumni became the first Dino to be selected in the seventh round with the 236th overall pick. The Los Angeles Chargers are already considered Canada’s team in the NFL, picking the Dinos cornerback was another great reminder of it. Leonard was one of the three Canadians selected in this year’s draft. 

The outstanding athlete became the 13th U SPORTS player to be drafted in the NFL. An amazing achievement and the dream of every football fan. But, it is a dream that takes a toll on anyone who pursues it. The Dinos star had to maintain his excellence on and off the field all while putting up impressive numbers and getting transferred to a Division I Ole Miss University to chase the national league. 

Leonard played three seasons for the Dinos before finishing his career at Ole Miss. His first time in the Scarlett and Gold was already a force to be reckoned with. Playing eight games in his first and second season, Leonard made an impact on the league scoring a touchdown in his first season and racking up 23 tackles as well. 

His last season was where he shined the most. The Dinos superstar managed to score two touchdowns. The defensive juggernaut collected 24 tackles, beating the number that he put up in the two prior years. All of these achievements helped the Dinos win the esteemed 2019 Vanier Cup, the fifth in Dinos history. A moment that he and his teammates will cherish forever.

Leonard had an impressive performance at the NCAA stage. Many argue that transferring to Ole Miss University was necessary to really open the eyes of the scouts to the prospect, much more so than just an eligibility issue. Although both points are valid, Leonard had to use his last year to shine in the US scenario. 

Leonard did shine through his veteran year in Mississippi. In two seasons playing for the Ole Miss Rebels, the Calgary native played eight games in his first year and 11 in his second year. The freak of nature finished with 64 total tackles and 11 passes defended. All while maintaining his high academic performance even after transferring in a busy year like 2020.

The cornerback was appointed U SPORTS All-Canadian twice. He rightfully earned Academic All-Canadian honours for his amazing performance both on and off the field. Leonard’s academic accomplishments didn’t stop there either. He was also appointed to the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll this past season. 

All of those honours give us a glimpse into the mind of Leonard and his mentality of never settling. The only way someone can go beyond as he did is to always set the bar higher and higher while trying to reach far beyond what the normal expectations are. 

Another very crucial point was his consistency. Maintaining greatness is harder than achieving greatness. Consistency is key no matter what stage of your game you are in — and Leonard practices this. That is why the athlete was named twice to the Chancellor’s Honor Roll list at Ole Miss. Sustaining his off-the-field performance with as much care and responsibility as his performance while wearing the Rebel colours. 

The six-foot star is most likely to not see much playing time in his first season. However, the game of football is a sport in which one can easily rise to the stardom by playing his position exceptionally well. Leonard is no stranger to such. The expectation is for him to sustain a mild decline in his tackle numbers once he does get a consistent time on the field.

For now, Leonard will continue to impress his coaches during training and camps. The NFL rookie even took the time to revisit his roots. Leonard stopped by the University of Calgary during one of the Dinos’ practices. Dinos head coach Wayne Harris said that they were all pleased to see him again and that they are all “very excited” about his opportunity in the greatest league of football.

“He is an outstanding man and outstanding player, and we couldn’t be happier for him today. He comes from a great family, and we’re so happy for them as well,” said Coach Harris.

It goes without saying that the U of C community is exhilarated and wishes Leonard the best. No one gets to that level without an enormous amount of sacrifice and solid commitment. Even if he doesn’t know it, he did more than just achieve his dream — he built a set of stairs so that every other Canadian football player who shares his dream is able to climb the steps his shoe once did.

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