John Tyler's Leonard a Lions leader

John Tyler senior Pierre Leonard (9) breaks through the banner to lead the Lions onto the field Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, for the matchup against Ennis at Earl Campbell Field in Tyler. Andrew D. Brosig/Tyler Morning Telegraph

A "C" on a jersey signifies captaincy; it connotes respect, ownership and, above all, leadership.

The "C" that now adorns Pierre Leonard's jersey on Friday nights means more than that, representing a young man's journey from bigheaded freshman to vocal leader of the John Tyler Lions.

Leonard has come a long way, literally and figuratively.

 

TRADING WIND FOR ROSES

The odyssey of Leonard began in the Windy City, where as a freshman defensive lineman Leonard started on varsity for Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, the same high school that produced NBA stars Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker.

But with Chicago growing more dangerous, Leonard's mother gave him a choice of moving to California or Texas. Leonard opted to relocate to Tyler, where his grandfather took him in and became his predominant father figure, while his mother stayed behind supporting him from Chicago.

"I love that man to death," Leonard said of his grandfather, a Tyler native. "I could sit there and talk about him for hours and hours. That's one of the greatest men you'll ever meet in the world."

Leonard arrived in the Rose City a brash and eager football player, having come from the third-largest city in America and one of the more esteemed schools in the country. His team went 11-2 his freshman year, finishing the year with a victory at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

However Leonard was dealt a significant blow when UIL rules stipulated he could not play varsity ball his sophomore year.

That was chip No. 1.

"I think that was the main reason why I had the huge chip in my shoulder because I felt like the state of Texas was against me," Leonard said. "I felt like nobody had my back since I couldn't play and that's why last year I felt like it was all about me."

By the time Leonard was released under the Friday night lights, it was opposing offenses that felt the consequences. Leonard amassed 91 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 12 sacks for the Lions.

Leonard thrived in an atmosphere where football was king and didn't take a back seat to basketball.

"It was a huge difference from Chicago football where the only fans you see at the game is your mom and your dad," Leonard said. "Here you have alumni coming to the games and people you don't even know coming up to you saying, ‘Good game'.

"It's just a welcoming feeling; it's the southern hospitality. It's way different than Chicago."

 

BMOC

There's no mistaking when Pierre Leonard enters a room. If 250 pounds of pure energy compacted into a 5-9 frame weren't enough, the John Tyler senior has a mouth to match, moving a mile a minute.

But therein lies the seed of chip No. 2: his 5-9 height.

Despite all his stats - this year he's racked up 45 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, 18 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles while wreaking havoc on almost every play - Leonard has a mere two-star rating, according to rivals.com. Leonard's only offer thus far is from Southern University, with interest from Tulsa, among other colleges.

"These two stars that they gave me, I laugh at it because I know that I'm better than the two stars," Leonard said. "I've got a huge chip on my shoulder with that.

"I'm tired of being told I'm too short to do this and I can't do that because of my height, or I can't go here, I can't go there, when I know that I'm balling out every Friday night and going out and giving my best effort and that's all that should matter."

Leonard has let his play on the field speak for itself. Alongside fellow senior lineman Braylon Jones, a Houston commit who is 6-4, the duo has combined for 28 QB pressures.

JT head football coach Ricklan Holmes said the fact that the two line up next to each other and often switch up positions, Leonard's height is an advantage against opposing offensive linemen who won't be used to Leonard's low center of gravity and superior leverage.

"I'm banking that a lot of these colleges across the country open their eyes and understand that, yeah he's a 5-9 kid, but with his play on the field, his understanding of the game, he matches up with any 6-6, 6-5, 6-3 defensive lineman that you can recruit that has more stars than he does," Holmes said.

 

PIT BULL AND THE BEAR

The relationship between Leonard and Jones goes beyond the field. The pit bull and the bear, as Holmes calls them, have become like brothers.

They text constantly and are goofy on and off the field. They are both ranked in the Top 20 in the class of 2016.

The two also can play both ways, with Jones working on the offensive line and Leonard called in as a fullback in short-yardage situations. Leonard has five rushes for 5 yards this year, but three of those carries ended in a touchdown.

"He's really become more than a teammate; he's really become my brother," Leonard said. "I really love Braylon and I'm pretty sure he feels the same way about me."

Said Jones: "He's a great player; he's a true baller. I know he's going to give his all every single play. It's a joy and it's a privilege and it's an honor to be able to play beside him."

The two have developed a unique understanding on the field, what they call brother telepathy.

"I can make eye contact with him and he knows I'm going to stunt this way and he can make eye contact with me and he'll stunt that way," Leonard said. "We have dummy calls that we give out."

What's more, the two provide the other with something the other is lacking. Leonard has the aggressiveness and bravado needed at defensive line that Jones can feed off of while Jones' calmness under pressure helps balance Leonard.

"The attitude of playing a defensive lineman that Pierre has rubs off on Braylon," Holmes said. "But then also the calm, cool, collected nature that you need to have off the field has rubbed off on Pierre."

 

CAPTAIN CUJO

Jones, unlike Leonard, was chosen as a captain at the beginning of the year.

Leonard had to prove to Holmes he deserved the captain's "C."

Holmes, one of the major father figures in Leonard's life, said Leonard is like another son and reminds him of himself when he was playing at John Tyler.

But Leonard, while always vocal, wasn't always the type of vocal leader Holmes wanted.

Leonard admits to some swagger when he came to Tyler, playing more to prove himself during his standout junior campaign. After a year on varsity, his mentality has shifted.

"When I came here I kind of had the big head because I was from Chicago and I started on varsity my freshman year," Leonard said. "But I've calmed down a lot. I see that it's not all about me; it's about the team."

And with that accrued wisdom, Leonard earned a spot as one of the team captains.

"He's always been a rah-rah kid, but now he knows how to do it," Holmes said. "He had to learn how to be a leader. And that's why he's a captain now because he understands what it takes to be a leader.

"He had to get rid of the selfishness. He had to stop being selfish and be more selfless."

From a brash basher to an impassioned leader, Leonard is part of the heart and soul of a Lions team that has won four straight after a difficult 0-3 start.

"We're playing the best we have right now but we still have a ways to go to become the defense that we want to become," Leonard said. "We have a goal to set that we want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. With that being said, we're still working and getting better every day.

"Now I see that it's really all about the team, and if I can help lead the team then they'll follow in my foot steps and we can hopefully get a state championship out of this year."

 

BRIGHT FUTURE

One of the lessons taught to Leonard by his grandfather is to be humble, a challenge for a teenage football star who utilizes his aggressiveness to shove his way past opponents.

"More people like a humble star than they like a glowing star," Leonard said. "Coach Holmes has taught me that and tried to drill that into me as well, that if I humble myself more things will come my way a lot easier."

What haven't come easy were the 900 miles he traveled from Chicago and the coming-of-age maturation process.

While Leonard's path hasn't always been straight forward, unlike the one he often carves on his way to opposing quarterbacks, his future is a bit more certain, thanks the letter "C" proudly displayed on his chest every Friday night.

TWITTER: @TYoestingETFS

LIONS TALES: Tickets for the JT-Corsicana game at Tiger Stadium will be sold on campus to students and faculty Thursday and Friday. Additional ticket sales will be at the TISD athletic office (807 W. Glenwood) Thursday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday and at T&T Lewis (903 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) during regular business hours Thursday. Presale tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students. Gate tickets cost $7 for general admission and $8 for reserved.

 

John Tyler 2015 Season Stats

Scores

Non-District

Plano 35, John Tyler 17

Longview 31, John Tyler 14

Robert E. Lee 69, John Tyler 38

District 16-5A

John Tyler 65, Whitehouse 32

John Tyler 30, Lindale 20

John Tyler 41, Lufkin 38

John Tyler 40, Ennis 29

John Tyler at Corsicana

Jacksonville at John Tyler

John Tyler at Nacogdoches

Score By Quarters

    1st    2nd    3rd    4th       OT        Tot. 

Opponents    58    84    42    70    0    —    254

JOHN TYLER    55    75    46    69    0    —    245

———

Team Statistics

Scoring

    JT    Opp.

Rushing    126    138

Passing    60    72

PAT    30    30

FG    9    6

Defense/Special Teams    20    6

2 Pt Conversion    0    2

Total    245    254

———

First Downs

    JT     Opp.

Passing    60    51

Rushing    79    94

Penalty    14    12

Total    153    157

——— 

Third Down Conversions

JOHN TYLER    35-76 (46%)

Opponents    38-82 (46%)

Fourth Down Conversions

JOHN TYLER    5-11 (45%)

Opponents    6-12 (50%)

Field Goals Made/Attempted

JOHN TYLER    3-4 (75%) 

Opponents    2-3 (67%) 

———

PATs Made/Attempted

JOHN TYLER    30-32 (94%)

Opponents    30-35 (86%) 

Team Yardage

Rushing

JOHN TYLER    1310 (187.1)

Opponents    1868 (266.9)

Passing 

JOHN TYLER    1459 (208.4)

Opponents    1160 (165.7)

Total Yards

JOHN TYLER     2769 (395.6)

Opponents    3028 (432.6)

Punts-Avg.

JOHN TYLER    25-774 (31.0)

Opponents    789-20 (39.5)

Fumbles-Lost

JOHN TYLER    15-9

Opponents    15-10

Interceptions Thrown

JOHN TYLER    4

Opponents    8

Turnover Ratio

JOHN TYLER    +5

Penalties-Yards

JOHN TYLER    69-618

Opponents    74-661

———

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Bryson Smith    108    802    7.4    10    73t

James Allen    52    232    4.5    1    19

Martrevious Allison    53    123    2.3    6    12

Ka'Darius Henderson    14    110    7.9    1    43t

Dejuan Beal    35    86    2.5    0    17

Damion Miller    1    14    14.0    0    14

Pierre Leonard    5    5    1.0    3    2

Duntayviun Gross    1    2    2.0    0    2

Jamal Cuba    1    1    1.0    0    1

Bryston Gipson    1    -6    -6.0    0    -6

Team    8    -59    -7.4    0    -5

Total    279    1310    4.7    21    73t

Opponents    306    1868    6.1    23    88t

———

Passing

Player    Co.    Att.    Yds.    TD    INT    Lg.

Bryson Smith    98    153    1413    10    4    91t

Jamal Cuba    4    4    46    0    0    18

Total    102    157    1459    10    4    91t

Opponents    76    145    1160    12    8    50

———

Receiving

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Duntayviun Gross    41    574    14.0    4    91t

Damion Miller    22    460    20.9    4    64t

James Allen    10    131    13.1    0    35

Jerry Young    8    67    8.4    1    38t

Ka'Darius Henderson    6    77    12.8    0    46

Michael G.-Washington    6    67    11.2    0    23

Martrevious Allison    4    45    11.3    0    23

Joshua Parker    2    14    7.0    0    11

Dejuan Beal    1    11    11.0    0    11

Jesse Darden    1    4    4.0    1    4

Tabias Marshall    1    9    9.0    0    9

Total    102    1459    14.3    10    91t

Opponents    76    1160    15.3    12    50

———

Punting

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    N20    BK    Lg.

Devan Salazar    10    349    34.9    4    1    59

Aaron Alfaro    7    218    31.1    2    0    42

Reynaldo Araiza    8    207    25.9    0    0    35

Total    25    774    31.0    6    1    59

Opponents    20    789    39.45            

———

Kicking

Player    XPM/A    FGM/A    TB    Lg.

Devan Salazar    30-32    3-4    0    63

Totals    30-32    3-4    0    63

———

Kickoff Returns

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Duntayviun Gross    14    385    27.5        45

MichaelG.-Washington    10    271    27.1        42

Damion Miller    5    90    18.0        35

Bryston Gipson    4    82    20.5        39

Ka'Darius Henderson    1    43    43.0        43

Bryson Smith    1    27    27.0        27

Kieran Freeman    2    11    5.5        6

Total    37    909    24.6        45

———

Defensive Stats

Fumble Recoveries

Player    No.    TD    

Dewayne Jones    4    1

Demondre Bacon    1    1

Brandon Dade    1    0

Pierre Leonard    1    0

Bryson Smith    1    0

Kieran Freeman    1    0

Martrevious Allison    1    0

Total    10    2

———

Interceptions

Player    No.    TD

Kieran Freeman    3    0

De'Quaylon Kennedy    2    0

Javontavius Mosley    1    0

Cordarion Johnson    1    0

Bryston Gipson    1    0

Totals    8    0

———

Sacks

Player    No.

Dekalen Goodson    4.0

Tabias Marshall    3.0

Pierre Leonard    2.0

Adrian Harris    1.0

Brandon Dade    1.0

Total    11.0

———

Tackles

Player    TOT    TFL    SAC    QBP    PBU    FF

Bryston Gipson    57    1    0    0    6    0

Da'Quaylon Kennedy    49    0    0    0    4    1

Dewayne Jones    48    0    0    0    0    0

Pierre Leonard    45    8    2    18    0    4

Shaundrick Williams    44    0    0    0    0    0

Braylon Jones    42    1    0    10    0    1

Javontavious Mosley    34    0    0    0    7    0

Brandon Dade    24    0    1    0    0    2

Kieran Freeman    24    0    0    0    1    0

Jesse Darden    21    0    0    0    0    0

Damion Miller    21    0    0    0    3    0

Martrevious Allison    19    0    0    0    0    0

Decorian Blaylock    16    3    0    1    0    0

Dekalen Goodson    16    0    4    3    1    0

Tabias Marshall    11    0    3    2    0    1

Cordarion Johnson    9    0    0    0    2    0

Gregorio Guerrero    9    0    0    1    0    0

Walker Franklin    5    0    0    0    0    0

Ka'Darius Henderson    5    0    0    0    0    0

Demondre Bacon    4    0    0    0    0    0

Adrian Harris    4    0    1    0    0    0

Dejuan Beal    4    0    0    0    0    0

Michael G.-Washington    4    0    0    0    0    0

James Allen    3    0    0    0    0    0

Nicholas Thompson    2    0    0    0    0    0

Joshua Parker    2    0    0    0    0    0

Howard Hawkins    1    0    0    0    0    0

Totals    523    13    11    35    24    9

———

Scoring

Player    TD    FG    PAT    2PT    Tot.

Bryson Smith    10    0    0    0    60

Devan Salazar    0    3    30    0    39

Martrevious Allison    6    0    0    0    36

Duntayviun Gross    5    0    0    0    30

Damion Miller    4    0    0    0    24

Pierre Leonard    3    0    0    1    20

Demondre Bacon    1    0    0    0    6

Ka'Darius Henderson    1    0    0    0    6

Jesse Darden    1    0    0    0    6

Dewayne Jones    1    0    0    0    6

Jerry Young    1    0    0    0    6

James Allen    1    0    0    0    6

Total    34    3    30    1    245

Opponents    36    2    30    1    254

 
 

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