Season Wrap-up: T.J. Leifheit

A day after verbally committing to North Carolina, T.J. Leifheit suffered a high ankle sprain in a freak accident.

"One of our defensive ends won player-of-the-week the previous week and they had the local TV station doing a story on him," Leifheit said. "…The camera guy was like ‘Okay, everybody congratulate him.' When that happened, everybody tackled him and they all landed on my ankle."

The injury would nag Leifheit for the remainder of the season until the 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle finally hung it up.

"It got a lot worse and I was unable to play the two playoff games," Leifheit said.

With the rest, Leifheit's ankle has improved.

"Right now, I'm not quite sure on a timetable for being back to 100-percent," Leifheit said. "But I should be okay in about two weeks."

Leifheit was selected to the Shrine Bowl, which begins practice in ten days. He is unsure how the injury will effect his Shrine Bowl participation.

With a limping Leifheit anchoring the offensive line, Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard won its eighth consecutive conference title this season. However, the season got off to a rough start, thanks to injuries and a difficult early schedule.

"We had a bye week in between our conference and non-conference schedule and we got all of our injured players back, except for one who was lost for the season," Leifheit said. "We got all them back and just started coming together as a team."

After dropping four of its first six games, Hoggard went undefeated in conference play, including defeating cross-town rival Wilmington (N.C.) New Hanover, which will play in the NCHSAA 4A semifinals Friday.

Without Leifheit, Hoggard barely defeated Cary (N.C.), 7-0, in the first round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs and were routed by Lumberton (N.C.), 31-10, in the second round.

On Monday, Sam Pittman, UNC's offensive line coach, dropped by Hoggard and spoke to Leifheit. Later that evening, they met Butch Davis at Leifheit's father's restaurant in Jacksonville.

"We talked about football a little bit, but for the most part we were just having a good time, relaxing, enjoying the time off, and just talking," Leifheit said.

Leifheit says the coaches are projecting him as a left tackle, his high school position, at least initially.

"I'm going to come in, work as hard as I can, try to get the playbook down as fast as possible," Leifheit said. "My goal is to try and start, but I know I have to earn that."

Leifheit is all set to graduate from Hoggard in a couple of weeks. He will arrive on UNC's campus on Jan. 9.

T.J. Leifheit Profile


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