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Leonard hoping to extend NFL career as free agent

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POTSDAM — Brian Leonard is not quite ready to call it an NFL career. Nevertheless, the times are changing for the Gouverneur native.

Leonard, the featured instructor this week at the sixth annual Brian Leonard Football Camp held at Sandstoner Park, is a free agent after competing last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He has worked out for the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens this spring and is not sure if he will get the call that extends his NFL career.

“I feel I had a strong year last year, I was productive and made plays,” said the former Rutgers University All American and seven-year NFL veteran. “But you never know with free agency. I’ve had a great seven years in the league and I think I have two or three years left. But if that’s it for my playing career, then it’s time to move on, and there are other things I want to do.”

Leonard’s life path has already taken a few new twists. He recently turned 30, got married, and extended his involvement in charitable endeavors by going to Haiti to work with the less fortunate.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life going to Haiti,” Leonard said. “The kids are so poor and barely have a toy to play with. It really opens your eyes and is a humbling experience. There’s a great need there.”

Leonard has also helped to raise more than a quarter million dollars for the “Embrace Kids Foundation” to help children with blood disorders. And before undertaking his camp duties Wednesday morning, he filmed a TV commercial for the United Way.

In pondering his future, Leonard recently purchased property on Sylvia Lake near where he grew up.

“After I’m not playing anymore, I would like to maybe go back and work for Rutgers or maybe get into commercial real estate, which I have a real interest in,” he said. “And it’ll also be nice to spend time on the water near home.”

Leonard began his NFL career with the St. Louis Rams in 2007. He spent two seasons there, then spent four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before playing last year with the Bucs under his former college coach at Rutgers, Greg Shiano, who was let go by Tampa Bay after failing to guide the Buccaneers to the playoffs last season.

Leonard has been used mostly in his NFL career as a third-down running back and pass receiver, as well as a special teams player. He is known as a solid pass protector while averaging 3.7 yards per carry with 143 pass receptions in his career. He appeared in all 16 games for Tampa Bay last year and in hundreds of touches in his NFL career, has lost only one fumble.

One of the Leonard camp instructors this week is another former Rutgers All American who played briefly in the NFL, Scott Vallone. Vallone was recently hired by St. Lawrence University as its defensive line coach.

More than 75 youngsters are attending the Brian Leonard camp, which concludes today. They include several Section 10 players who received Don Petty Memorial Scholarships to attend the camp for free. They include Troy Gates of Gouverneur who has attended the Leonard camp for the past five years, along with Mason McGill of Massena, Rico Dobbs of Canton, Ryan Fullerton of Potsdam, Caleb Gomez of St. Lawrence Central and Joey Dalton of Ogdensburg.

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