Leonard's focus solely on Fighting Irish


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

These days, when Adam Leonard gazes toward the future his field of view doesn't extend beyond Wednesday.

Sure, he has some plans laid out beyond Christmas Eve. He'll return home to Seattle for the rest of the holiday season, then resume training for a shot at playing professional ball. He's also considering various options as he looks to complete his last semester of school while on the mainland.

But for now, those plans—and thoughts of the impending end of a prolific Hawaii career—will just have to wait.

“;I haven't been thinking about my future, just one day at a time,”; Leonard said after the Warriors' practice yesterday at Saint Louis School.

“;I just want to come out here and enjoy each day I have. When it's all said and done, I'll think about the last day when I leave. Right now it's just preparing for Notre Dame.”;

Ah, yes. Notre Dame.

Leonard will finish his Hawaii career against the Fighting Irish on Wednesday in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. After the clock hits zeroes, there will be much to reflect on.

If not for a knee injury that ended a standout career at Rainier Beach High in Seattle prematurely and chased away some of the programs that had been pursuing him, Leonard might not have ended up in the islands in 2005.

Then there wouldn't have been those back-to-back seasons of triple-figure tackles as a Warrior, the Sugar Bowl experience, a WAC title and the lasting relationships with his teammates to savor.

“;I'm so thankful for that,”; Leonard said of the fork in his path that led him to Hawaii. “;God is good and he blessed me with this opportunity.”;

Leonard and fellow senior and roommate Solomon Elimimian have anchored Hawaii's linebacker unit since breaking into the lineup as freshmen. Elimimian will leave the program as UH's all-time leading tackler, while Leonard enters the Hawaii Bowl with 309 career stops and five interceptions.

He has 81 tackles this season while playing through various injuries, including a troublesome hamstring that ended his string of consecutive starts at 31 when he sat out UH's road win over Fresno State.

But he still earned first-team All-WAC honors for the second straight season and the lessons of the past continue to shape his philosophy on dealing with adversity.

“;Everything happens for a reason,”; Leonard said. “;I had to battle through injuries, but it's all for the best. I'm thankful for the season we had and I'm looking forward to finishing off strong.”;

Leonard wasn't quite back to full strength when he started his UH career, less than a year after tearing ligaments in his knee. But he gradually worked his way into the rotation and posted nine tackles as a freshman.

“;That shows the kind of player he was,”; said UH defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Cal Lee. “;His leg wasn't 100 percent, but he had such a great desire to play we had to use him.

Back up to speed as a sophomore, he posted a team-high 114 stops in 2006 and was second to Elimimian last year with 105.

His development on the field accompanied his overall growth.

“;I became a man down here,”; Leonard said.

“;It's definitely a different environment from Seattle. ... You're so used to that one environment. When you come out here it's a whole new environment and it's definitely been an eye-opener and helped me grow so much and mature and be more alert to different cultures and coming up with my own view on life.”;

But before he takes those lessons on to the next phase of his journey, Leonard has a few practices and one more golden opportunity to attend to.

“; 'Rudy' is one of my favorite movies and there's something about the whole mystique about the program,”; Leonard said of Notre Dame. “;They're always among the top in recruiting classes. It's going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to competing against them.”;


Walk the line

UH head coach Greg McMackin and 14 current Warriors missed yesterday's practice to participate in the school's graduation ceremony at the Stan Sheriff Center.

McMackin said he wanted to support the players who are finishing their degrees and show appreciation for the faculty by attending the mid-year commencement.

“;The players have done the work to graduate, but the faculty has done all the work to teach them the things they need,”; McMackin said.

Graduating this semester were Keith AhSoon, C.J. Allen-Jones, Jameel Dowling, Inoke Funaki, Ryan Perry, Fale Laeli, Khevin Peoples, Desmond Thomas, David Veikune, Mike Washington, Guyton Galdeira, Alonzo Chopp, Dylan Linkner and Nathan McKay. Tyson Kafentzis also completed his course work but spent the morning at practice.

Former players who graduated were Michael Lafaele, Brad Kalilimoku, Jacob Patek and Nathaniel Russell.