Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

UNC CB Commit Tray Leonard on the Mend

The Florida cornerback will miss three to four weeks of his senior season with an arm injury.

West Palm Beach (Fla.) Oxbridge Academy is undefeated through three games. In keeping that streak intact, the ThunderWolves will have to navigate the next few contests without shutdown corner/North Carolina pledge Traivon Leonard.

"My whole arm is basically injury," Leonard said. "It's a forearm sprain and elbow contusion.

"They told me I'll be out the next three/four weeks. If I get it rehabbed and grind it out, then I could probably come back in two weeks. But, I don't want to rush it."

Leonard, a 6-foot, 170-pounder, sustained the injury during the opening kickoff of Thursday's 41-0 rout of Royal Palm Beach (Fla.).

"I actually just stretch my hand out to make a shoestring tackle," Leonard said. "And then I celebrated with the arm and everything; like, I threw a little punch. I guess the adrenaline kicked in when it happened.

"But then I couldn't move it -- it was really tight. And if I twisted my arm in a certain way, you would hear the bone kind of cracking. I thought it was out of place or broken."

Leonard was due to remain on the field for the first defensive snap. But, he immediately waved on his backup. 

"I just started to feel it in my arm," Leonard said. "My coach was telling the backup corner to come off the field -- because he was also on kickoff -- and I was like, 'Hold up, wait. My arm is not good right now.'"

Though he definitely doesn't want to miss a chunk of his senior season, Leonard has found the silver lining of the situation.

"It's disappointing, but I also look at the bright side: I'm going to UNC next year to play football and we have some young guys on our team that need that experience," Leonard said. "It's their time to shine -- that's how I look at it. It's just giving another kid an opportunity to go out and get film and get some offers.

"I'll be back for IMG [Academy] and all those big games. It works out perfect."

Based on his four-star rating, Cajuan Smith isn't necessarily in need of exposure. But the 2018 defensive back is in line for more responsibility with Leonard on the mend. UNC is among the Baker's dozen of schools to have offered Smith.

"I'm on his case A LOT," Leonard said with a chuckle. "I always joke with him, 'Hey, I committed; I went up there. Now, it's your turn to get up there. Let's do it.' And he always laughs about it."

Outside of recruiting for UNC, Leonard hasn't asked Smith too many questions about his recruitment, including which schools are sticking out or his feelings on the Tar Heels.

A day after the injury, Leonard woke up to a text message from Charlton Warren, UNC's secondary coach. The text read, "I'm really happy that it's not broken." Most shocking to Leonard: he went to bed as soon as he returned home that night and had yet to inform anyone from UNC.

"I think the UNC coaches spoke to my coaches after the game and found out about it," Leonard said. "When I talked to him, Coach Warren was surprised. He told me to tell him what happened. I think he was a little bit startled by it."

Since switching his commitment from Florida Atlantic to UNC, Leonard has never wavered on his pledge. But the support affirms he made the right decision.

"It makes me feel very comfortable about my decision and makes the process feel legit," Leonard said. "Because I know when they found out I wasn't going to be a midyear [enrollee], a lot of schools stopped speaking to me. North Carolina has really been there for me and they ask me about personal things."

Additionally, UNC's supportive response brought back a memory from Leonard's June visit to UNC. While sitting in Larry Fedora's office, the Tar Heels' head coach said, "Even if you tear your ACL and never play again, we're still going to honor your a scholarship."

Due to proximity, Leonard won't return to Chapel Hill until his official trip. He says he's finalizing plans to be a part of the big January official visit weekend. UNC will be the only school he officially visits.

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