Imagine taking a job in another state with benefit of visiting your new work site, or even getting a look at the city in which you'll be spending the next few years of your life. Then you can imagine the leap of faith that's required in making a verbal commitment before seeing a campus in person. But that wasn't a problem for Leslie, who built a great relationship with Mountaineer wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway.
"I just felt like the way the coaches were making me feel, the school should be just as good as they are," said Leslie, who has earnestly described his relationship with Galloway on several occasions during the recruiting process. "Plus all of the coaches sent me letters in the mail, and they made me feel like family even before I had committed.
"I wasn't close to any of the other coaches like I was to Coach Galloway," he continued. "There wasn't any other coach that I built a relationship with like the one I built with him. We'd have deep conversations on a lot of different subjects. Some were about coming to West Virginia, but we talked about a lot of different things."
Leslie, who grew up watching SEC football, didn't have any ties to WVU before the Mountaineers began recruiting him during his junior year. As the first team to offer, that carried some weight during the recruiting process, and as the Mountaineers stayed with Leslie through the season and the off-season, they built up points with the rangy pass-catcher.
That early relationship was important, as Leslie didn't record the sorts of eye-popping stats that some high school receivers have. Playing in a veer offense, Leslie didn't get many balls thrown his way. However, when he did, he made the most of them. He had 19 catches for more than 500 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior – meaning that he went the distance on more than two out of every three receptions for scores.
"My high school doesn't throw it all that much, so I have to take advantage of the chances that I get," he said. "We run the ball really well, and we know we can run it, so that's o.k. When we throw it, I want to make the most of it."
Leslie says all this without complaint, and isn't disturbed that he might not have the chance to catch 50 or 60 passes like some featured high school wideouts. Instead, he concentrates on doing everything he can to help his team succeed.
"I'm playing some cornerback and some safety too," he said. "We should be good this year. We made the second round last year, and we can go deeper this year. I will play wherever the coaches want me to play, and wherever I can help the team."
With his numbers, Leslie was something of an unknown quantity in recruiting circles following his junior season, but two factors helped him jump up the recruiting radar and earn offers from a number of schools, including LSU, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville, Clemson and UCF. The first was his highlight tape, which revealed a big rangy receiver that was able to shake free from defenses and make plays, while the other was strong performances in a number of seven-on-seven camps, including sessions at Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Jackson State. There, Leslie was able to impress onlookers with his abilities and earn more notice. However, through it all, the Mountaineers remained at or near the top of his list, showing the value of early contact and relationship building. While Leslie was certainly happy to get offers from those schools, in the end it was the long-term fit with West Virginia that paid off.
Leslie, an all-region and all-county first team pick as a junior, had previously thought about waiting until after he took his official visits before making his choice. However, the rapport with Galloway, plus the idea of concentrating on his senior season, caused a shift in that thinking.
"I was thinking about waiting until my last home game, but I didn't want that pressure of recruiting taking my concentration off the field," he explained.