[Bill Ackerman - For Shaw Media]
Leach has indeed grown, both figuratively and literally, into one of Nazareth's most valuable players. Now 6-foot-2, 285 pounds, the senior defensive lineman, who also plays fullback and even got time at offensive line last week, Leach leads the Roadrunners into a tough Class 7A quarterfinal against unbeaten Simeon at 1 p.m. Saturday at Chicago's Gately Stadium.
He agreed that his move three years ago worked out for the best.
"When I was in Pop Warner I always played linebacker and a little running back, so at first I was a little mad about playing line. I had never played that position," Leach said. "I started to grow into it and found out it was my best position. The line is the most physical position. It got me mentally stronger and got me a lot more physical."
Leach grew by not missing a day of workouts, and eating right. He eats a lot of protein, and packs his own lunches. Turkey sandwiches and pretzels are two staples.
The Nazareth defense is geared towards its linebackers making plays. Leach makes that possible. He has 26 tackles of his own, eight for loss, with six sacks, but that's gravy to the grunt work Leach does.
"Even if he is not making plays, he is creating opportunities for a lot of guys. He is a cornerstone," Racki said. "That's how disruptive he can be. He has done more than anyone can see."
That under the radar contribution seems to fit Leach's stoic demeanor.
"He's funny, but more deadpan, very mature and serious – he gets down to business," Racki said. "He's mature beyond his years. It's like talking to another coach. He's smart and insightful and asks great questions."
Leach, who plans to commit after the season and currently holds eight offers, will be part of the answer to how Nazareth can slow down Simeon.
Racki said "they look like us," with plenty of gamebreakers led by Michigan State recruit Alante Brown at quarterback.
"They're a very skilled team, with a very potent offense," Leach said. "Everybody has to rally to the ball. If all of our players get to the ball and wrap up I think we'll be OK."