POTSDAM Football has been good to Gouverneurs Brian Leonard.
This week at the SUNY Potsdam campus, the all-purpose running back and leading special teams contributor for the Cincinnati Bengals is returning the favor.
When I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to get to football camps at Syracuse and Rutgers. One of our goals with this camp is to give kids a chance to have the same experience, said Leonard during a break in the Friday session of his fifth annual summer camp.
Camps were something that helped prepare me to play at the next level. We have more than 85 kids here, which is up a lot from last year, and we want to give them a positive experience that they can take back with them with they leave, he added.
For John Paul King of Malone, the camp is the chance of a lifetime for area gridiron hopefuls.
Im definitely a Brian Leonard fan. My dad used to take me to games when he was in high school. People say that one player cant beat a team but he could do it all by himself, said King, who will be a senior this fall and is attending the camp for the third straight summer.
I love the game of football. To have a chance to learn more about the game from a person who comes from around here and plays in the NFL is a very rare opportunity for anyone interested in playing football and I didnt want to miss out on it, he said.
A four-year standout at Gouverneur Central where he set state high school records for scoring and yardage, Leonard relayed his experience at the Rutgers football camp into an outstanding career where he helped elevate the Scarlet Knights to national prominence. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and spent two season there before making the move to the Bengals.
I like my role with the Bengals. When the ball is in my hands I feel like I can make plays, said Leonard, who is headed into his fourth season with the Bengals and in the final year of his current contract. I just want to do whatever keeps me in the league for as long as possible. Weve made it to the playoffs two of the three years that Ive been there, so were heading in the right direction.
Leonard headlines a camp staff that consists of NCAA Division III college coaches along with area high school coaches, including: Matt Wright, Offensive Line Coach, Hamilton College; Mike Britton, Head Coach, Clarkson University Club Football; Sean Devlin, Head Coach, Gouverneur High School; Jeff Dittman, Defensive Line Coach, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Travis Dann, Assistant Coach, Gouverneur High School; Jake DerCola, Wide Receivers Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Utica College; Jim Kirka, Head Coach, Potsdam High School; Cory Marsell, Head Coach, Indian River High School; Dan Duddy, Head Coach, Monsignor Donovan High School (N.J.) and Austin Weakfall, Head Coach, Canton High School.
Massena Central graduate Anto Almasian, who is entering his second year as a defensive lineman for Colgate University, is also on hand as an instructor, while Shawn Kennish, former Director of Football Operations, Rutgers University, serves as camp director.
I feel good about whats going on here, Kennish said. We saw a need for this kind of camp and to be able to bring it to the kids in the north country is a great opportunity for them. This is our fourth year up here and its the biggest number of campers weve ever had. Hopefully we can keep things going in the right direction.