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NFL Draft Diamonds Exclusive: A.C. Leonard’s Path to the Draft **Part 3, Updated**

Who is A.C. Leonard? 

Tennessee State junior Tight End A.C. Leonard has teamed up with NFL Draft Diamonds to give you all an exclusive look into his Path to the Draft.  As a former four star prospect and No. 5 tight end nationally according to Rivals.com his path has already had some minor bumps.  The former member of the ESPNU top 150 class and Rivals top 100 class wants America to know a little more about who he is, and has agreed to write a blog taking you to the draft itself.

Where is A.C. from?

My childhood was seemingly typical to many people growing up around me. My three sisters and myself were raised by my grandmother in Palatka, FL. I come from humble beginnings but my sisters have always made it seem like we had all that we needed in each other. Palatka is a relatively small city near Gainesville.

Growing up, I busied myself by staying active. I’ve played too many sports to even count, but I remember the first time I touched a football, it was playing flag football. Every child has an expansive imagination about something when they are young. I lived mine out on the field,  me and my two best friends Ricky Gibbs and Tevin Evans always were together playing football.

My uncles played collegiate and professional football while I was growing up. I always knew that I could be like them. I’ve never said this but I have always wanted to be like them; they were my role models growing up. I’ve always been particularly pensive. Since I was ten years old, I’ve reflected on how my life would be if I played in the NFL. Since age 10, I have shaped my own path to make sure that I consistently work to better myself and my chances of living my dreams. Playing ball in high school was a great experience.

I’ve played for Palatka High, Jean Ribault Senior High, and University Christian High, respectively. I’ve played multiple positions at all schools. My favorite positions were always Tight End and Defensive End but other positions I’ve played range from running back to free safety – I played where I was needed. I began Varsity ball in the 8th grade. Looking back, I’ve made it to the playoffs but we never made it to the state championship.

A.C. Leonard averaged 20 yards-per-catch as a tight end in high school, but on defense, he recorded 21 sacks and 60 tackles with 10 for a loss. A.C. was not kidding about playing wherever they needed him, he finished his high school career with an additional two blocked punts, one blocked extra point, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. This earned him the right to participate in the Under Armour High School All-American Game. A.C would ultimately choose his college, and boy were they coming after him.  He would have a tough decision on his hands, especially with Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide and many other powerhouse teams trying to bring him in.

Part 2 
A.C. Leonard was highly recruited out of high school in which numerous major colleges were calling and coming to Leonard’s high school.
“I had offers from quite a few schools including The University of Alabama, Louisville, Arkansas, and Auburn. I also had quite a bit of interest from the University of Florida, which I believe fit me the best. Growing up so close to the Gainesville area, I’d always followed the Gators closely, especially at my position. Nearing my deadline to make my decision, my son weighed heavily on where I would go. I didn’t want to be too far from him so UF became my choice.”
After just one season at UF, Leonard hauled in 8 receptions for 99 yards as a true freshman. A.C. Leonard had climbed to number one on the UF depth chart at tight end, but eventually decided it would be smart to leave Florida.
 “Many people have been made to believe that I was kicked out of UF or left because of an incident, but that is not true. I made the decision to leave because I wanted to change my environment. I wanted a fresh start.”
After A.C.’s decision to leave the school he began looking to find a school outside the area, with people that he knew.
“I began looking for schools outside of the state, where I would have friends.  I’ve kept the same friends from my childhood. At UF, I was roommates with Chris “Juice” Johnson, but at Tennessee State University, I had three roommates. I liked the inclusive family vibe at TSU.
While it was a little different for A.C to get adapted to a small historical black college in Tennessee State, he said there were not too many real differences. 
“There weren’t many differences other than the facilities and resources. The crowd attendance significantly differed. I went from playing in front of a crowd of about 90,000 at UF to about 4,000 on a good day at TSU. Nonetheless, both schools gave me a great college experience.”
While A.C. decided to leave Florida he never lost sight of his original goal of being an NFL Superstar.  He knew that scouts would find you if you can play. 
“It is what you make it. No it’s not D1 and you aren’t playing in front of 90,000 people every Saturday but it’s still college ball. There is still great competition week in and week out. No matter where you go, if you have the talent, you are in a situation to further your dreams. I believe that HBCUs should be respected as much as other schools are. I can’t speak for others but my HBCU was great to me. I came away with multiple accolades – national tight end of the year, 2 years as an All-American. Possibilities are everywhere.”
A.C. had a very solid sophomore season for the Tigers. He caught 51 passes for 733 yards and scored six times. He did not slow down in his junior season.  Leonard hauled in 34 receptions for 441 yards and scored 5 more times.  A.C. was getting quite a bit of attention from NFL scouts and he had a choice that needed to be made, that was whether to stay in school or to forgo his Senior Season and enter the NFL Draft. He decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He feels great about his decision and his ultimate choice to attend Tennessee State.
“Don’t rule out a HBCU because you feel you can’t make it to the next level. It takes heart and vision to be great. If you feel that only a certain type of program will propel your career, be open-minded.”
The AGENT PROCESS
The agent process might be one of the most stressful steps in the NFL Draft for a small school prospect.  Every agent is trying to sell you their product, or representation, and small schoolers are sometimes overwhelmed by the attention.  Many agents do things the wrong way, which is why the NFL investigates so many agent/player transactions.  So we thought it was necessary to ask A.C. about his process, and how it played out, because A.C. left Tennessee State early to enter the NFL Draft.
The decision to leave early was my decision, because I believed that it was the right time for me to declare for the NFL Draft. After speaking with my family and coaches, I decided it was best for me to forgo my senior year.
We then asked A.C. about the agent process, because we know how stressful it can be.
The agent process was a little stressful. It was something I was unfamiliar with and essential my first stepping stone into the entire process. I chose my agent myself because I believe that an agent is someone who you have to connect with in order to know that they are concerned about you as an individual while still considering the business aspect of it all. I didn’t allow anyone to help me choose. I went with my instinct based on who I felt was best fit to help me during every transition of this huge process as well as my career.
The biggest question next was Who did you sign?
I chose Jon Perzley of SportStars, Inc. He didn’t come off too strong and made me comfortable with what he and his company stood for.
Sportstars Inc. is based out of New York and has hundreds of players, so A.C. definitely chose an agent with experience, that felt would offer him the best assistance in getting to the NFL.
Once A.C. chose his agent, the next step for a player is to chose where he will train if he does in fact get a Combine invite in Indianapolis.  Well it was not long after choosing his trainer, he received that invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.  Due to the facet A.C. was a Junior, he could not participate in any All-Star game such as the Senior Bowl or the East/West Shrine Game.
I remember the day I received the combine invite. That moment was surreal! I wanted to come in and shock people, and I knew I could.  I trained at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, FL.
After the hard work training at the Andrew Institute, A.C. went to the Pro Day, where he would face every NFL team, with interviews and showing the world his performance.

I was happy with my performance at the combine but I didn’t get caught up in the hype of having the best numbers. As you can see, I’m still proving myself. I’m proving myself and everyone will see eventually that I am great. I remained humble at the combine and will remain humble through it all.

A.C. killed the Combine and while he was humble, his numbers proved just how hard he worked.

He finished in the top three in three categories for his position.  He ran a 4.50 forty yard dash official time, bench  pressed 225 pounds 20 times, had a 34 inch vertical jump and a monster broad jump of 128 inches.  Leonard proved to the entire scouting community that he was someone people better keep an eye on.
He turned heads in his Combine and it didn’t stop there.  On March 20th, he was present to talk to NFL scouts at his Pro Day which had 30 teams on hand.  Leonard’s name is starting to become popular in the scouting world, but the Draft is right around the corner.  Has A.C. helped his stock?  We will find out shortly…….
Stay tuned for Part 4 of A.C.’s Path to the Draft, Make sure you tune in to NFL Draft Diamonds next week and please follow A.C. on Twitter.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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