Backup quarterback Craig Leonard reflects on CSU career

Emmett McCarthy

Third-string quarterback Craig Leonard might get some action Saturday. It will be his last home game as a Ram, but that’s not why he could be in the game taking some snaps on senior night. Mike Bobo has begun incorporating some read-option packages for Leonard, his most mobile quarterback. We first saw it two weeks ago against San Diego State, then again in the Border War.

“I think he had one carry last year against Hawaii but he’s a leader,” Bobo said. “Those kids respond to him in the weight room, they respond to him on the field even though he’s only signaling out there in practice and he’s got a certain quality about him that when he’s on the field the players feel like we’re about to be successful, so we put in a little package for him and it kind of expanded a little more from week one to week two that he played.”

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Leonard is technically a junior on the team roster, but Saturday will still be his senior night. He has chosen to forego his final year of collegiate football eligibility next season and instead focus on graduating in the spring. Leonard answered questions from the media Monday about his career at CSU.

Q: What’s it been like having a role carved out for you in this offense?

CL: “It’s been a blast honestly. It’s been a ton of fun. Last year I got in for a play against Hawaii and got nine yards. I’ve been joking with the guys about how I’ve been averaging nine yards-per carry for a year now. Once you get in, it’s kind of addicting. You really want to get back in. Get on the field and have some positive plays. You want to do everything you can to get back on the field. So to have the opportunity has been awesome. To contribute towards wins has been fun. Winning is number one obviously, so if I can do anything to help the team win, that’s what I want to do.”

Q: Did you have to lobby for the roll at all?

CL: “I asked. You know, everybody makes comments here and there. I know some of the O-line put in a good word for me. I kind of, I didn’t want to, you know beg for it or anything. I just kind of kept my head down and worked hard, and I think coach decided it’d be time to give me a shot. Hopefully I’ve done enough to keep it in for the rest of the season.”

Q: How bittersweet will this game be?

CL: “Yeah, bittersweet is a good word for it. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my life. I’m getting married in June. I want to start my career. There are career goals I want to get working towards. I mean I’ve had an unbelievable four years at CSU and bittersweet is a really good word for it. I’m happy that this is happening now, rather than at the beginning of my career and kind of fizzling out. If there was a time that I’d want this to happen, it would definitely be now. So it’s been fun, that’s for sure”

Q: Why didn’t you ever transfer to a school where you wouldn’t have had to compete with a Garrett Grayson?

CL: “You guys heard me say it before. I’ve been a Ram my whole life. I watched my first game when I was eight years old. Bradlee Van Pelt gave me a Nike sweatband when I was young, and I still have it to this day. There’s no other place for me. This is where I wanted to be, ya know this place is either going to sink or swim. I think we’ve been swimming pretty well the last couple years and it’s been an awesome ride. It didn’t matter if I played a down here, this was where my career was going to start and end.”

Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.

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