Then came an ACL injury in the third game of the year for Rainier Beach, and the list of schools that were pursuing Leonard quickly started to disappear.
Eventually, Leonard's had just one lone offer, from Duke. But a former Bruin quarterback, who was doubling as an assistant coach at Rainier Beach, helped get Leonard some notice from his alma mater, despite missing the final nine games of the season.
"Coach (Rick) Neuheisel has been great in getting my name out there. He is good friends with Coach (Karl) Dorrell, and when schools weren't calling me, Coach Neuheisel was getting in touch with UCLA. A lot of the coaches from UCLA know Coach Neuheisel from Washington and Colorado, and that's why they started looking at me," said Leonard.
Leonard will receive an in-home visit on Monday night from a UCLA coach (though he wasn't sure which one would be making the trip), and said if UCLA offers, he may go ahead and choose to become a Bruin.
"My family was very excited when UCLA came calling. To be able to play in the Pac-10, and be able to come up here and play Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, would be wonderful. I have family in the Bay Area too. I mean, Duke is a great option, too, but I wanted to play in the Pac-10. To get a chance to go to college, though, after everything I've been throw, means a lot to me."
One of the top linebackers in the state as a sophomore and junior, Leonard was heading into his senior year expecting to have his pick of schools. The two-time Metro League Defensive MVP thought everything was working out. But the knee injury, occurring on the first drive of the third game, ended all that.
He said, "At first I wondered why but then I realized everything happens for a reason. It showed me how important football is. People are going to doubt me, that I can come back from this injury, but I'll show them I am worthy of a scholarship and can play at a higher level then they expect me to."
Leonard underwent surgery immediately after the ligament tear, and has been rehabbing since. He said the rehab is going better than planned, that should he be ready by the fall, and sees no reason to be redshirted.
"I know some people think I should redshirt, but mentally, I am prepared to play this fall. If my body isn't ready, then of course I'll redshirt and get ready, but mentally, I think I can be effective right away. It's going to be a judgment call by the coaches."
But Leonard is optimistic about his recovery. "The doctors think I could even be ready for the East-West All-Star Game in June. I want to show I'll be ready for college," said Leonard.
Leonard said the injury has caused him to reflect on the sport he grew up playing. "I've been playing so long, that when it was taken away from me, I became hungrier, with something to prove. I can do all that I can control, and all I need is a chance, and I'll show them that I am ready. I think this thing has been a positive for me."
Leonard said along with Duke and UCLA, Stanford has been recruiting him as well, but they wanted a better SAT score before officially offering. "I'm all qualified by NCAA standards, I have a 3.3 and a 990 on my SAT, but Stanford wants around an 1150-1200 with my GPA. And with the surgery and rehab, I haven't had an opportunity to take it again."
As a junior, Leonard racked up 90 tackles as well as 23 receptions for 525 yards and 10 touchdowns. Heading into the third game this year, he had 25 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a sack.