KRYK: Leonard reunites with Calgary highschool teammate on NFL’s Chargers

Rookie cornerback and linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, who gained an Alberta championship collectively in 2014, now taking part in collectively on particular groups

Earlier than this soccer season, cornerback Deane Leonard had barely ever performed on kick groups — or particular groups, as they’re popularly recognized.

Now, as an NFL rookie, Leonard is one in all two Canadian special-teams specialists on the Los Angeles Chargers, together with linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga.

You are reading: KRYK: Leonard reunites with Calgary highschool teammate on NFL’s Chargers

It’s really not sufficient to say each gamers are from Canada. And even that each are from Calgary.

Each males, in truth, attended Calgary’s Notre Dame Excessive College within the metropolis’s far north finish, about the place the encompassing Coventry Hills, Panorama Hills, Nation Hills and Harvest Hills neighbourhoods collide.

Leonard was a yr behind Ogbongbemiga at Notre Dame Excessive. For 2 years, 2014-15, they performed collectively on the Notre Dame Satisfaction senior soccer staff, profitable an Alberta championship in ’14.

Seven years later they’re taking part in collectively once more, professionally on the Chargers’ 53-man energetic roster — on the defensive facet of the ball in practices, and up to now totally on the identical kick groups in video games.

Loopy. Does all of it appear to be a wierd blur?

“Yeah, it actually does. However actually particular,” Leonard mentioned in a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Wednesday, organized by NFL Canada to advertise upcoming occasions in Toronto (NFLHuddle.ca), the place the Tremendous Bowl champions’ Lombardi Trophy might be on show.

Leonard was born and raised in Calgary, whereas Ogbongbemiga attended solely highschool there, after having lived beforehand in Nigeria and Houston.

Ogbongbemiga left Calgary for Oklahoma State College, the place he was a standout scholar and performed with the Cowboys from 2016-20.

Leonard at first stayed dwelling for the primary three years of school ball, 2017-19 — turning into a two-time all-Canadian with the College of Calgary Dinos — earlier than transferring to the College of Mississippi of the highest Energy 5 NCAA convention, the SEC. Over two seasons with the Rebels, the super-speedy Leonard was a two-time honour-roll scholar within the classroom and earned the eye of NFL scouts on the sphere. Leonard not solely is huge for a nook (6-foot-2, 195 kilos) however quick: He ran a scintillating 4.39 seconds within the 40-yard sprint.

This previous April the Chargers drafted the nook close to the top of the NFL Draft, 236th general, in Spherical 7.

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Shortly earlier than the Chargers flew out to Kansas Metropolis on Wednesday — the place they misplaced 27-24 to the Chiefs on Thursday evening, to drop to 1-1 on the younger season — the 22-year-old Leonard talked about his path to the NFL, the unlikely coincidence of reuniting together with his good pal Ogbongbemiga, and the position he has embraced on the Chargers this season.

Right here’s an edited transcription of that interview:

Did Amen getting a scholarship to Oklahoma State College encourage you to boost your soccer targets whereas nonetheless in highschool?

“Yeah, it did … I went all the way down to a bunch of (recruiting) camps … I all the time knew it was potential, however Amen sort of SHOWED me {that a} man from Canada could make it.”

Eight rookies made the Chargers’ preliminary 53-man roster popping out of summer season coaching camp. To what do you attribute being one in all them?

“It actually was simply arduous work. (Throughout spring practices) I wasn’t pleased with what I put on the market. Then after we had these 5 weeks off earlier than camp, I actually centered on what I wanted to enhance on, from coaches’ suggestions. And I feel the leaps I made in that point, and all of the preparation I put into it, I feel that’s what allowed me to make this staff.”

You’re listed on the Chargers depth chart as a backup at not simply cornerback but additionally security. What are your roles on defence?

“I’m a nook, however when there are solely 53 gamers on a roster you must know greater than only one spot. You must be various, and have the ability to be thrown into spots, to fill in.”

Amen made the staff final yr, as an undrafted rookie, by advantage of his standout play on particular groups. I observed you have been in on extra particular groups performs than not in your NFL debut on Sunday in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders. What are your numerous special-teams roles?

“Proper now, all of them. That’s the factor. We’ve got plenty of good corners. There are 53 guys on the roster. Everybody has a task. And I’ve to play particular groups, and carry out on these to assist this staff win. That’s one thing I’ve to take delight in and exit and do my finest in, each week.”

Did you play particular groups loads at Calgary and Ole Miss?

“No, no. I performed a bit bit right here and there, however no. Not like I’m proper now.”

Do you know, coming into the NFL, that to crack a roster you’d need to play — and play properly — on particular groups? That’s usually the case until you’re a QB or star first-round choose. Did you examine particular groups, and bone up?

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“Yeah, with Amen as properly. He tells me the reality in regards to the scenario. Look, we have now nice corners on this staff already. I’m going to make my dwelling off taking part in particular groups as a rookie. That’s simply the truth you must take care of. Clearly, you must be prepared in case any individual goes down, to play on defence, however particular groups is my position on this staff proper now.”

You’re one in all 4 Canadians this week on the Chargers’ energetic roster. Cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, from Toronto, is on injured reserve. Did he allow you to early on this spring and summer season, as sort of a Canadian taking a Canadian below his wing at your place?

“Yeah — however, actually, all the vets did. Everytime you make a mistake, or are scuffling with one thing, they’re all the time keen to assist out. And I feel it’s a testomony to all the veterans on the staff — Tevaughn included.”

Are you near Amen? When did you first meet him? Have been you guys buds again dwelling?

“Yeah, we have been. I first met him in Grade 10. I performed on the varsity with him, so we performed two years collectively. And, yeah, he was my man by highschool. And it was actually nice to observe him undergo school and the whole lot. Reuniting has been nice. He helped me to get settled out right here too, so it was good simply to have a well-recognized face out right here to assist me get settled in … L.A. is ginormous. Simply making an attempt to get by all that site visitors is one thing else. It’s completely different out right here.”

Canadian NFL gamers I’ve talked to say velocity of the sport, no matter their place, is likely one of the hardest issues to get used to within the NFL. Has your velocity helped you to make up for any break up seconds of indecision, or no matter?

“Yeah. I feel once I got here out right here I realized to play to my velocity, play to my strengths. That’s one thing — like once I’m operating down on a kickoff (in protection), I do know I’m a velocity man, I do know that 1-on-1 nobody can run with me. So being that ‘quick man,’ I’ve sort of needed to weaponize it, and learn the way quick I really am.”

Was {that a} nice shock — how briskly you really are even at this high degree of soccer?

“Yeah, I’m undoubtedly nonetheless speedy, even for NFL requirements. It’s been good.”

Cornerbacks should be assured, cocky, even arrogantly so, to have the ability to nonetheless imagine in your self 100% after often getting beat. How would you describe your perspective on the sphere?

“It actually relies upon. Some video games I speak loads, then some video games I preserve to myself. However it’s unstated confidence that you have to have. While you play nook, you already know one thing goes to occur in some unspecified time in the future. It doesn’t matter who you’re. You possibly can be the most effective nook within the league, however one thing’s going to occur in opposition to you, so you must have a brief reminiscence. As a result of in the event you begin letting your confidence slip and also you begin taking part in a unique approach, it’ll be a lot worse. You simply must preserve your head robust and transfer on to the following play.”

Josh Palmer, the Chargers receiver from the Toronto space (Brampton). I’m certain you’ve gone in opposition to him a bunch in practices because the spring. How good is he?

“He’s actually good. After I first bought right here he was giving me plenty of hassle … He was getting the most effective of me loads. He’s an amazing participant.”

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