Q&A with Jim Leonhard

Wisconsin's newest defensive star talks about his breakout game against Fresno State.

How do you feel right now?

Leonhard: I feel unbelievable. I didn't know the game would go this way, but it feels amazing right now. I don't know what to say. It was just unreal. We did what we had to do to win, everybody. We pulled it through.

Is this the ideal first game of the year for you?

Leonhard: Oh it's amazing. It's just amazing. You could never have thought things would go like that. We thought all along we were going to win but we were going to have adversity throughout the game. But we just didn't know what was going to happen. But we came out on top.

Can you talk about your second interception? It looked like the receiver almost caught the ball.

Leonhard: I just took it away from him. I guess I wanted it more than he did at the time. I just took it away.

When you got that first interception, do you feel it gave the defense momentum to go out and get more turnovers?

Leonhard: It definitely helps. Football is all about momentum. The defense got it early, and we kept getting it back. We took a lot of heat last year. We're just trying to turn things around this year.

Do you think you catch people by surprise, doing the things you do at your size?

Leonhard: I'm sure I catch a lot of people by surprise. They don't expect me to do some of the things I do. That's what I'm coached to do, what I did today. We do it every day in practice, so it's nothing new to me. It's just a lot more people get to see it now...Everyone on this team has been coached to make plays. We came through.

Where does your confidence come from?

Leonhard: Everyone. Everyone around me. Family, friends...coming from a small town like that, everyone knows you. Everyone can count on you for stuff. It comes from that.

Did you feel that last pass was going to come to you? Leonhard: I had that feeling. I wasn't sure. I saw it right away and it was good.

It's Friday night. What are people doing in your hometown?

Leonhard: I don't even know. There's not a whole lot to do.

Do they have cable to watch the game?

Leonhard: Some people. The rich guys.

How proud are they?

Leonhard: Real proud. I just talked to the family and stuff. I guess it's unreal up there. Hopefully it's just getting better.

Is one of the reasons you came here the tradition of the walk-on program?

Leonhard: That definitely helped out a lot. You see guys like Jason Doering. It's amazing what they did. So I knew I would get a shot, and I'm just taking advantage of it.

What's your assessment of the defense overall?

Leonhard: We played a really solid game. We made our mistakes but when it was in the clutch, we made plays. And that's what we needed tonight. I mean, everyone on the defense was making plays and that's what we need this year.

Was that the perfect way to end the game, with you breaking up the last pass?

Leonhard: It was great. It was so loud. I have to give it up to the fans. I couldn't hear a thing that whole last series. It was just amazing to walk off the field after that.

Next time, you have to break a punt return back.

Leonhard: Yes I do. We'll get there.


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