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Faith, Tradition, and the Notre Dame Defense Made Riley Leonard's Decision an Easy One

Updated: Feb 7

By: Nick Kremer⏐Editor⏐Twitter: @NickKremerIT⏐Profile: @NickKremer

Photo - The Irish Tribune

NOTRE DAME, Indiana - Riley Leonard made his media debut as the projected starting quarterback for Notre Dame. In talking with Riley, it was evident that he is enjoying his time in South Bend and is ready to take on the challenge of being the quarterback for the University of Notre Dame.

“I walk around campus and just wearing this logo on my chest means so much to me and hopefully I can represent it the right way.”

Leonard, coming from a similar college environment at Duke, did notice a difference between the two schools. 

“The day I took the visit here and stepped off the plane, it was all Notre Dame football…it was crazy.”

While Leonard was excited to see the passion that South Bend has for Notre Dame football, he is no stranger to the history and tradition surrounding the Irish football program. Leonard’s great-grandfather, James Curran, played for the Irish, and he also spent some time watching Notre Dame movies growing up.

“I've never been here, but legit I watched Rudy every single day growing up.”

As Riley Leonard walked up the stairs of the Irish Athletic Center, everyone was curious about his ankle, which he had injured playing against Notre Dame this past season. Riley had high-ankle tightrope surgery in mid January to clean up this injury and be ready to go for Spring practice. There had been varying reports on Leonard’s injury, and how much time he may have to miss in the coming Spring.

“Feel great. I'm bouncing around…obviously no boot or anything. You probably wouldn't even realize I got surgery. That story broke a couple of days ago, but it wasn’t really a secret or anything.”

Leonard said that recovery has been going very well, and that he fully plans on being ready to go by the time Spring practice starts.

“Rob Hunt and the whole training staff have been great with me. I should be back in a couple of weeks.”

Leonard added that he is still able to put in most of the work in the weight room.

“Yeah, I’m able to do pretty much everything except sprinting right now.”

Leonard was impressive to talk to in the media session, and it is evident that he comes from a great support system. Leonard credits a lot of who he is and his beliefs to where he came from, Fairhope, Alabama. Leonard has a strong connection to his faith, and that was something that attracted him to Notre Dame.

“Every single person in that city that I came into contact with helped me with my faith. I'm able to bring that here. Obviously that's the most important thing in my life.” Leonard said. “When I go to bed at night, I’m not thinking ‘how many touchdown passes did I throw?’ ‘Did we win or lose?’ I'm thinking, did I better my relationship with Jesus Christ? Did I treat my girlfriend with respect? Did I call my parents?”

Along with faith and tradition, there was something else that was a big selling point for Riley committing to Notre Dame. The Irish defense.

“That was a huge part of my commitment. Whenever they were recruiting me, I was like who is coming back on defense? They were flying around all game. Really incredible players. Guys like Riley Mills, Howard Cross (who still owes me dinner). I told him there's a Ruth’s Chris right down the road.”

Leonard mentioned Cross owing him dinner (with a laugh) because Cross sacked him on the play he injured his ankle. Leonard also went on to mention Ben Morrison, Xavier Watts, and Jack Kiser when describing how desirable it was to play with this defense.

Since he has been on campus, Leonard has been focused on building relationships and diving into the Notre Dame playbook.

“Priority number 1 is building relationship with the other players and learning the playbook. I think it's super important to know those things like the back of my hand. I need to get the playbook down before I dive into fixing my game because if you don't know the plays you cant fix your game."

Leonard knows that his limited time at Notre Dame will be huge for his future and he has a plan to reach his goals.

"I would have liked to be in the NFL draft after last season. I need to approach this season like an NFL quarterback. All the intangible to handle yourself before the games, how to prepare. Tangible things on the field, obviously, pocket awareness and arm strength. I know my weaknesses, so I'm ready to attack those things and accept that challenge.”

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