First In Class

Anthony Leonard learned a lot about the recruiting process from his cousin, and put it to good use during a decision–making process that ultimately ended up with a decision to attend West Virginia.

Leonard's cousin is Eugene Jarvis, a small but shifty and speedy running back that had offers from Pittsburgh and West Virginia early in the recruiting process last year. After putting up big numbers at the start of his senior season, Jarvis began attracting interest from other schools, and although he really liked the two local universities, decided to wait and see if offers would come from "bigger name" schools. At that point, however, Jarvis was felled by a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for three games, and despite rushing for more than 2000 yards, found that many of the hoped-for offers weren't forthcoming. By that time, both the Mountaineers and Panthers had moved on to other recruits, leaving Jarvis to accept an offer from Akron.

Leonard, who is very close to his cousin ("we talk all the time"), learned a lesson from Jarvis' experience.

"I didn't want to pass up on this opportunity," Leonard said of the Mountaineers' scholarship offer and the chance to attend West Virginia. "I didn't want to wait to see what would happen with other schools. I had offers from Iowa and Temple, and interest from a lot of other schools, but my heart and mind and body and soul all told me that West Virginia was the right choice. I learned a lot from Eugene about the recruiting process, and he ended up being one of the first people I told about my decision."

Leonard said a number of items came together to form the basis of his decision to attend West Virginia, which is a solid commitment.

"The coaches were one of the big reasons," Jarvis said. "At a lot of places, the coaches were rush-rush. But at West Virginia, it was quality time. That meant a lot to me. I talked to Coach Gibson a long time on my visit, and I talked to Coach Rod for a long time too. You expect to talk to the head coach for about five minutes, but he ended up spending an hour with me in his office. Talking to them is like talking with my close friends. I feel like I can talk with them about anything.

Leonard, who hails from McKeesport, a suburb of Pittsburgh, wasn't necessarily looking to go to a smaller city, but found a lot to his liking on his visits to Morgantown. He has made several trips to WVU, and not only for football. His AAU team also played in tournaments at WVU, so he is very familiar with the town and the environment.

"The community was the next thing," the voluble Leonard continued. "It's laid back, but it's growing too. It's a town built around the college, but it's growing, and if it keeps going that way, it could be the biggest city in West Virginia. I think it would be great to be a part of that."

It wasn't a WVU story from the start, however. Leonard admits to growing up a Nittany Lion fan.

"I was a Penn State fan growing up," he admitted with a laugh. "That was the school I always wanted to go to, but they didn't come to the table [with an offer]. And like I said before, I did not want to wait to see what might happen. West Virginia offered me, and that was it."

Leonard did have a couple of West Virginia influences around him, but none of them put any pressure on him to become a Mountaineer. Still, he counts them as big influences in his life.

"A couple of people I know went there, including one of my coaches Johnny Harper," Leonard said. "Also Tim Brown, who played linebacker there. He's a coach at Clairton High School, and he is a big influence in the community. He does a lot for kids all over the area."

When the time came to make his decision, it only seemed right that Leonard would inform the family member that had provided him so much valuable information during his own recruiting process. And although Leonard said that he was attending West Virginia no matter what the reaction, it was no doubt a good feeling when he got a positive reaction.

"Eugene gave me a big thumbs up," Leonard said with another laugh. "That was great. I wouldn't have changed my mind if he hadn't, but that was really good. I think he would have gone to West Virginia if he could do it over again, so he knows that it will be good for me."

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