Small stature, big man on campus

The Baltimore Sun

You've dealt with questions about your size (5 feet 8, 186 pounds) throughout your NFL career. Did that ever get irritating?

It's part of the game, especially when you don't fit the mold or you're not the prototypical guy. You hear that your whole career. I've been hearing it since I was in high school. It's really nothing new. It doesn't necessarily drive me. It's not the only thing that drives me, but it definitely helps knowing that people are doubting you. You've just got to go out there and approach the game however you need to to make yourself successful, and that's what I try to do.

Current and former University of Wisconsin defensive backs Chris Maragos, Shane Carter and Ben Strickland have said you are a role model and inspiration for them. How does it feel to have made that kind of impact?

It feels good. I like to go back. My wife and I bought a place in Madison this past offseason, and I get back and work out with a lot of those guys and meet with them and watch film and just try to help their careers out. I had people who did that for me. It doesn't take that much time out of your schedule, but it really helps them out.

Who was your mentor?

I've got a brother [Brian] who is 3 years older than me. So I was a freshman when he was a senior. Kind of the whole time growing up and being the younger brother, you're always trying to do whatever he's doing. He really pushed me when I was younger to be better, and once I got to high school, I was definitely ahead of where a lot of people were.

Would you rather have a Super Bowl ring or a Hall of Fame bust?

Super Bowl ring. That's what you play for. You play to be the best at any level. To have that Super Bowl ring, they can never take that away. Usually, the individual stuff goes along with that. If you look at most of the teams that have won Super Bowls, the recognition comes with it. I think if you take care of winning the Super Bowl, everything else will fall in line.

You played football, baseball and basketball while growing up in Tony, Wis. Which sport was your first love?

It's hard to say because football really didn't start until the seventh grade. I was really big into baseball and basketball when I was younger, and my dad coached me in both of those. So he pushed me pretty hard. It's hard to say. Growing up in a small community like I did, you pretty much did anything. Whichever sport was in season or on TV, that's what you were going to do.

I read that you once struck out 19 batters in a seven-inning high school baseball game. Any thoughts about pursuing baseball instead of football?

I was thinking about it. If I had gone [Division II], I could've played both - baseball and football. That was kind of one of my options, but I wanted to try that top level. I felt like I could compete at that level and play at that level, and I just needed to prove it for myself.

Do you ever think about what could have been if you had taken the baseball route?

Sometimes, but, obviously, it worked out. I don't have any regrets. I still love playing baseball and stuff like that, but I'm enjoying where I'm at right now.

You're stuck on a deserted island with a book, CD and DVD. What are they?

That's tough. I would say for a book, it's got to be something motivational because you're stuck by yourself. I read The Secret not too long ago. I don't know how much that would help me out, but I would think it would have to help your mind-set out a little bit. The CD would be something relaxing. Maybe Anthony Hamilton. You can't get too excited out there by yourself in those long days. And I'm a big comedy guy. Probably Wedding Crashers. I've seen that hundreds of times, and it never gets old.

How did it feel to be named to Sports Illustrated 's "All-Time Badgers Team" with the likes of fullback Alan Ameche, cornerback Troy Vincent and wide receiver Lee Evans?

It was good. They've got a great tradition there. I'd never do it differently if I could. To get recognition as one of the best players to come out of there, it feels great. I've got a lot of school pride.

What's the best nickname you've ever had?

I kind of like the one I've got here. [Cornerback] Frank Walker kind of tabbed me as "White Lightning." So that's kind of funny.



Each Wednesday we'll bring you a Q&A; with a Ravens player to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's subject of this series is strong safety Jim Leonhard, who has 19 tackles and a sack while filling in for injured starter Dawan Landry. Leonhard ponders his still-strong connection to the University of Wisconsin, his possible career path in baseball and his current nickname.



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