Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY JACK SOBLE R iley Leonard doesn't sleep much. He'll wake up early, even on days when he doesn't have football responsibilities. If he has someone to go with, he's a big fan of the morning fishing trip. Leonard doesn't like downtime. He'd prefer a trip to church on the way back from an after- noon golf outing. And if it's a competi- tion, Leonard wants to win it. "If you played ping pong with him, he was gonna fight to win," Tim Carter, Leonard's coach at Fairhope (Ala.) High, told Blue & Gold. Now in South Bend, when Leonard is not at the football facility, he'll be out and about on campus. The Duke quarterback transfer can't play pick-up basketball at the moment — he was a star in high school — but he still hangs out around the on-campus courts in the hopes of meeting new people. Leonard loves to have fun. It shows up on the gridiron, where he specializes in making people miss in the open field. And it shows up when you sit down and have a conversation with him. He an- swers questions with a smile on his face, enthusiasm in his tone and occasionally a joke or two. However, that's not the biggest thing those close to him want people to know. "One thing Notre Dame is about to know about Riley Leonard is how spiri- tual he is, how religious, how much of a man of God he is," said Irish defensive end RJ Oben, who came with Leonard from Durham, N.C., to South Bend. "The conversations I've had with him and guys on the team while I was at Duke about Jesus and following the Lord have been amazing." That's who Leonard is, and it's not just talk. He has his values, and he lives them. "When I go to bed at night, I'm not thinking, 'How many touchdowns did I throw? Did we win, did we lose?'" Leon- ard said. "It's, 'Did I better my relation- ship with Jesus Christ? Did I treat my girlfriend with respect? Did I call my family? Did I call my mom?' It's those types of Christian values that have really shaped me into the person I am." FAIRHOPE AND FAITH Growing up in Fairhope, a town of just over 23,000 people located about 25 minutes southeast of Mobile, Leonard got involved with his local church at an early age. As his dad, Chad Leonard, ex- plained, Riley has always believed in the phrase, "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future." Leonard spent much of his youth with his church group friends, which kept him coming back. KEEPING THE FAITH Riley Leonard walks the walk as a Christian and never stopped believing on the way to Notre Dame Leonard played in 27 games at Duke and posted a 13-7 record as the starter in his sophomore and junior seasons. His career numbers are impressive — 4,450 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 1,224 yards rushing with 19 TDs. PHOTO BY LARRY BLANKENSHIP

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