A tip of the cap to Badger great Jim Leonhard. A true American athletic success story: Straight outta Rusk county, Flambeau High School in northwest Wisconsin. To walk-on starter, three-time All-American, 21 interceptions to tie the school record, all while standing at five feet, eight inches.
Then what? Well the NFL wasn’t convinced in the draft … no one took him. No big deal, he was signed to Buffalo and made the 53-man roster. He once again over-delivered in his career. Appearing in over 140 games, more than 70 starts, plus 14 picks in a 10-year NFL career.
He loved the Badgers so much, he joined Paul Chryst’s staff in 2016 just one year after retiring from the NFL. He rose from DBs coach to defensive coordinator in just one year, then coached in three New Year’s six bowls and this year, it all culminated into serving as the interim head coach for the man that hired him now departed.
Luke Fickell expressed he would have loved to keep Leonhard on the staff, but understood this was Leonhard’s call in the end. Fickell knows what Leonhard can do as a coach and on the field, remember the interception against Ohio State in 2003? Fickell was the special teams coordinator on that Buckeyes team.
Jim Leonhard did everything he could for the Badgers. He’s a defensive-minded guy when the biggest flaw of the team was its offense. That’s not entirely on Leonhard, and UW Athletic Director Chris McIntosh was put between a rock and a hard place between hiring a Badger legend or getting the reigning National Coach of the Year with extensive midwest ties.
Jim Leonhard has always done everything and more than expected of him, and he’ll be successful in his next endeavor.