A lot of kids dream of playing big-time college football when they're throwing their Nerf football around the backyard, but few get realize that dream. For Leonard Gordon it was a goal that he has been preparing himself for years.
"I attribute a lot of my success to how hard I work," Gordon explained. "I had thought about it. I'm sure every football player thinks about playing major college football. I had made that decision a long time ago. There was a time when I told myself that I was going to be a big-time player. I always told myself that I had to step up and be a leader, even as a freshman.
"I came from a team that had two Division I players on it. I was young. I was hanging with a lot of seniors because I played as a freshman. Just seeing them go through the recruiting process, I kind of looked up to them as players and how they performed on the field. After they left we stayed in contact and they gave me advice on what I needed to work on.
"At the time I didn't think things were coming as fast as I wanted them to. I wanted to be recruited as much as they were. I felt things were coming slow, but they told me to just keep working and it'll come to you.
"I was kind of disappointed after my junior year, right after the season, I thought I would make all-state and I was kind of disappointed that I didn't, but my coach told me better things would come out of it. I listened to him and he was right because it (recruiting attention) started coming faster. As fast as I wanted it to come back at end of my sophomore year and the start of my junior season, it came faster toward Christmas time after all my tapes were sent out. Once Kentucky and Louisville offered and all the in-state schools offered, they started coming in from everywhere."
Some high school prospects enjoy the recruiting process and all the attention that Gordon sought, but as he found out, he wasn't one of those guys. Not because he wasn't grateful for the opportunities, but more because of the pressure he was placing on himself.
"I wouldn't say it came from the coaches applying the pressure. You just have to think about it a lot because you want to make the right decision for you," Gordon described of the internal pressure of being recruited. "You're constantly thinking about where you want to go with all the choices you have. Everyday you're getting a call and it just brings all that back up; brings the thought of where I'm going to attend school in the middle of doing homework. Once I made my commitment it took a lot of pressures off.
"When you talk about the pressure of the recruiting process, once I made a commitment all that left me. I'm real happy about my decision. I guess you could say it just made me happier knowing where I'm going to be the next four or five years."
Now that his college decision is made and most of the people in Fort Campbell know that he'll be playing for the Irish, Leonard realizes the weight the Notre Dame name carries.
"When people hear the name (Notre Dame) they'll say ‘oh, you're going to Notre Dame'," Gordon said of the added attention he's receiving since he committed to the Irish. "I've got people from other teams wishing me good luck, and they tell me to tell coach Weis they said hello. Yesterday my mom was making fun of me, calling me a movie star because I signed autographs at the dentist office and people wanted to take pictures with me.
"The attention is new. I try to hide from it, because it's kind of embarrassing, so I guess you could say it's changed my life a little bit. All that can go to people's head quickly, but I do have a nice circle of people that ground me and keep me humble," he continued " I just look at it (Notre Dame) as a school that offers me everything I want academically and athletically. It is hard to not look at Notre Dame knowing the name and tradition. It's hard to look past all that, but I tried to look beyond that and look at the people I'd surround myself if I did commit."
Gordon had talked about visiting Notre Dame during the spring for one of the junior days, but those plans fell through. He eventually got his first look at the Notre Dame campus on an unofficial visit for the Michigan State game. What he discovered was that Notre Dame was everything that he wanted.
"It was the first time I had ever been," he said of his visit for the Michigan State football weekend. "That was my first time, and it just fit. I keep telling people it just seemed like it was for me--seeing the campus, the people and especially the recruits. I'd definitely say that's something that led to my commitment, knowing that I'd be coming in with good guys like James (Aldridge), like Jaashad (Gaines) and Demetrius (Jones).
"It's a dream come true," he said proudly. "I have God to thank for having the athletic ability and my drive to work hard. As much as you think about playing collegiate football, and you set goals, it's almost hard to believe when you're in a situation like this, that you're actually going to be doing it. It's amazing. Notre Dame, it doesn't get any better than that!"