Director of player personnel Jim Goodman has been coming to the Senior Bowl every year since he joined the Broncos in 1998. He watches all the practices and disseminates the games, but one area that pays close attention to is special teams.
“For some of these guys, it’s their first time playing on special teams in a while,” Goodman said.
The more you can do as a player, the better — and the greater your chances of contributing are. And Brian Leonard, one of the sparkplugs behind Rutgers’ recent football revival, has already figured this out, working at tailback, fullback and on special teams.
“I’m just thinking versatility,” Leonard said.
To that end, Leonard dropped 14 pounds from his playing weight last year, checking into Mobile at a fighting-trim 224 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. Such a rapid decrease led to questions when NFL teams cornered him throughout the week.
“They always ask about my weight, why I dropped so much weight,” Leonard said. “It’s because I wanted to show how versatile I am.
I figured if I came in at 238, I’d play fullback and I’d be lead-blocking every play. But now (at 224 pounds) they gave me a chance at tailback.”
Leonard took on a secondary ball-carrying role as a senior, ceding primary duties to Ray Rice as the Scarlet Knights completed their finest season in decades. Leonard sacrificed his own statistics for the betterment of the team; his 717 yards from scrimmage last fall were the fewest of his career, as he’d notched at least 1,250 yards from scrimmage in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 campaigns. But when Rice rampaged through defenses for 1,794 rushing yards and Rutgers earned its highest-ever season-ending ranking (No. 12), Leonard’s move was justified. Now, he’s finding out that his year as primarily a blocking fullback could make him a finer NFL tailback.
“It’s made me a better tailback, because the power, strength and center of gravity you (develop) can be used to block people — and make powerful runs, too,” Leonard said. “Short-yardage, goal-line — you’ve got to get underneath the defender.”
And in what is sure to be music to the ears of NFL teams, Leonard has no preference which backfield slot he plays. The weight can go back on just as it came off.
“If a team wants me to play fullback in the NFL, I’ll bulk up to 238, 242 (pounds),” Leonard said. ” Wherever they need me, I’ll play.”