Following the J.J. Model

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is the current gold standard for aspiring high school players - like Middletown (MD) Ricky Leonard - wanting to master the position. Knowing where Watt learned his skills, Leonard was excited to get an offer from Wisconsin on Monday.

For an inspiring defensive end, Middletown (MD) Ricky Leonard knew exactly which NFL player he wanted to model his game after in preparation for his junior season.

"Everyone wants to be like J.J. Watt," Leonard told Badger Nation. "He is one of my role models. He has accomplished so much. He is a powerhouse in the NFL right now."

And Leonard is not naive to know that Watt got that education on how to be a tenacious defensive end at the University of Wisconsin.

"I know they have a good tradition, J.J. Watt played there, they are known for their defense, winning Rose Bowls, Big Ten championships and producing big strong men."

It's one of the main reasons Leonard was excited when Wisconsin came by his school Monday and added to his growing scholarship total.

"I got the offer at school (Monday)," he said. "They talked to my head coach. I didn't get a chance to directly talk to them, but they said they were given me an offer. Wisconsin is a good school with great academics and a good transition. I am definitely going to do my homework on Wisconsin."

Trying to model his game after Watt, it's no surprise that Leonard loves rushing after the quarterback and running back and trying to create as much havoc with his high motor as possible.

"I tried to play with as much energy on every play, bring a level of intensity, be deceptive and play with my hands up," Leonard said. "I try to bat down balls, which was one of the things I did well last year."

Of course it doesn't hurt that he's 6-7 and 260 pounds, helping contribute to his 70 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and seven batted balls.

"That definitely catches the eye," said Leonard.

With a growing scholarship list, Leonard says his early top five includes Florida State, Clemson, Maryland, Nebraska and Tennessee. All the schools have offered.

In addition to Wisconsin, Leonard says another school recruiting him hard is Rutgers. Having visited the Scarlet Knights campus multiple times, Leonard says his mailbox was stuffed with 106 handwritten letters from the Rutgers' coaching staff on Monday.

"It's definitely a great thing. I am blessed to have an opportunity. They said they really want me, and I can tell with the letters. It's nice that that actually care about me to write that much."

Leonard said the letters came from virtually every person in the program and all varied in their message.

"The all gave their reasons to come to Rutgers. What can you really write about in 106 letters? It was a lot, but it was very nice."

Leonard plans to take a look at the five schools on his list, including going to camp at Clemson in June and Florida State early summer. He also plans on doing his research on Wisconsin to see if he wants to visit.

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