2004 Draft Prospect Interview: Rodney Leisle

Rodney Leisle provided some serious buzz on the UCLA campus on Thursday. Coming into his Pro Day event with an ankle injury that has hampered him all year, Leisle participated in all the workout drills. We caught up with Rodney just hours after the workout on Thursday to discuss his day, the ankle injury and some teams that are showing strong interest after his gutsy performance on Thursday.

A broken leg cut Leisle's junior season in half and a high ankle sprain his senior season has made scouts question his ability to stay healthy. Then came Thursday. Scouts and coaches in attendance did not think he would run but he came out with all his talent blazing.

He ran a 5.18 forty on his bum leg, put up 31 reps on the bench press which prompted Leisle to call himself "consistent" and 10-yard split times of 1.82 and 1.80. Putting that in perspective, Dwan Edwards ran a 1.82 while healthy at the combines.

Gutting it out on his Pro Day had a lot of people talking late Thursday afternoon and the name Rodney Leisle was being whispered around town.

"That is good," Leisle said. "My ankle is still jacked. It is sore from doing all of that stuff today. I supposed to get it cut on next Monday. I get my little bone spur cut out. And in two weeks I will be back."

With his injury status such a major concern to potential NFL suitors, Leisle admits he had to do it.

"Yeah I did. For one, I didn't get my times or anything at the combines. And two, I needed to prove myself. I didn't do as well as I thought I was going to do. I don't know if it was my ankle or nerves or whatever it was. I think I did well enough."

It wasn't that Leisle didn't play. He did, but the injury has made him questionable for many games. He gutted out those too. Leisle played in twelve of thirteen and contributed 40 tackles as a senior. He added six tackles for a loss, three sacks and three interceptions.

Yet, on Thursday he was nervous to be back out there.

"Anytime you go out there with all them guys you are going to be a little bit nervous," Leisle said. "The first forty I ran I was real nervous and the second one I loosened up.

"You can only do so much with that ankle."

Some scouts and draft evaluators have said he has a mean game face, but over the last season and a half it could have been Leisle was grimacing in pain.

The reality is Leisle transforms himself before a game and brings his thick frame and solid build to the defensive line and plays the game with a passion.

"It is a whole different face when game time starts," Leisle says. "It is like another person comes out. I think about what I am going to do. Take no prisoners and kill everyone I come into contact with."

He is known for his run stuffing skills and ability to play through obvious pain. His strength is at the point of attack and he feels he can play against anyone as long as he stays within the gameplan.

"Know the assignments and what the coaches are asking you to do and just try to do it as hard as you can," said Leisle. "I think I am strong as any of those guys. Just trying to establish a new line of scrimmage and push them back."

For Leislie, it starts well before gametime with his pre-game meal.

"I eat my double-doubles before every game. I eat two double-doubles before every game. This last year I cut it back to one double-double. That is my energy for the game."

Yet, it's no surprise scouts and talent evaluators are still talking about the ankle. It has been bothering since the Senior Bowl when league personnel first set eyes on him.

Leisle was just happy to be invited. He learned a lot from a coaching staff headed up by Marty Schottenheimer and defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely.

"All the guys are so good there it gives you a reality check," Leisle said of the competition at the Senior Bowl. "How you fit in and how you will do. It was a great experience with the coaches and being in front of the media. I wasn't well there with this nagging injury that has been bugging me the whole time."

And now, the former Bruin is looking to his next coaching staff in the NFL.

"Nunnely is cool," the defensive tackle said. "Schottenheimer is a great coach. I wouldn't mind playing for Coach Nunnely."

We also informed Leislie that Green Bay and Denver had taken an interest in him at his Pro Day and Leislie was ecstatic to hear the news. "That's great! (Green Bay) Coach Franklin was my coach freshman year," said Leislie. "And Denver would be a cool place to play too. Colorado is a great state."

His next goal now that his Pro Day is over and surgery awaits is simple:

"Stay healthy."

If he does, he could be a force up the middle and finally deliver on the promises that followed him through his college career. The only difference, the stage has changed and it will be for an NFL team.

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