Athlete of the Week: Joey Leonard
November 9, 2016
Joey Leonard, a sophomore linebacker from Medford, Wisconsin, gave a huge performance for the UWRF defense as UWRF fell in overtime to UW-Whitewater 27-20 on Saturday.
Leonard recorded eight total tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break up in the back and forth game against the second ranked team in all of Div. III.
The pass he broke up was also big because it came on a third and long play that ended up forcing a missed Whitewater field goal, which kept the game tied at 20-20 and led to overtime.
The Student Voice sat down with Leonard to talk about his major impact on Saturday and to take a look back at an up and down season for the Falcons.
Q: What has been the strongest point of the defense this season?
A: The whole mentality of playing team defense. We really pride ourselves in everyone doing their job, and because of that we’ve had some success.
Q: What led to an increased role for you against Whitewater?
A: Whitewater really likes to run the ball and they do a lot of two tight end formations, so Coach Larson wanted to put some bigger bodies out on the field and told me I would see the field.
Q: What was the biggest challenge the UW-Whitewater offense posed for the defense?
A: We knew going into the game they were gonna try to run the ball. We knew some of their top receivers were out so we thought they may even run some more, so we were ready for it.
Q: What led to you being in position to make big plays on Saturday?
A: In order for me to make plays, the ten other guys out there had to do their job, too. As a defense, we like to say it wasn’t the individual that made the play; it was all eleven guys.
Q: Does this loss give the team confidence that they can play with anyone on a given Saturday?
A: It was kind of bittersweet because we obviously would have liked the game to come out differently. But, at the same time, if that game didn’t show us that we can play with anybody in the entire country, we shouldn’t have been there.
Q: What has the coaching staff done to keep the team motivated to come and fight every week after some tough losses?
A: I think they’ve done a really good job of getting us to buy into what we want to do. Coach Larson with this new defense has done a great job helping us realize it’s about the team and not the individual, and that just makes it that much more fun.
Q: Does it give even more incentive to close out the season with an important win against Stevens Point on Saturday?
A: I hope so, because sometimes after a game when you pour so much emotion and physicality into it, there can sometimes be a little bit of a letdown the next week. But we’re gonna do everything we can to go out the right way this season.
Q: Has this team still made major strides this season even if the record may not reflect it?
A: I think we’re more talented than we have been in years past, but for some reason things haven’t come together the way we’ve wanted them to this season.
Q: How would you describe this season after coming in with higher expectations than usual?
A: I think it has motivated us a little bit. We knew coming into the season we were going to be a pretty decent team and we’ve played really well in some of the games we’ve lost. For some reason we can’t put it together for 60 minutes straight and that’s definitely something we have to work on moving forward. If we do that, we have the talent to be very competitive.