Leslie learned how tough he was, mentally and physically. He learned how resilient he was. He learned how hopeful he was.
He learned how much football meant to him.
“I had to sit on the sidelines every day at practice, just watching the team play football, and I knew I was going to miss the entire season,” said Leslie, now a senior. “I truly realized how much I loved playing. I learned that when I was determined to reach a goal, I can push my body to the limits to accomplish it. I showed it through physical therapy, to being cleared in 4 1/2 months when the average time to get cleared was six months.”
Since then, the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Leslie has been a consistent, productive fixture for the Warriors. He ran for 883 yards and three touchdowns through the first six games this season, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. While he has primarily played running back, Leslie also plays linebacker when needed.
“If I had to choose to play linebacker or running back, I would choose running back any day,” Leslie said. “I think it’s my best position. While I don’t doubt my ability to play linebacker, I feel that my talent as running back better benefits the team in a positive way. Plus, at running back, I still have the ability to go and run over an opponent and score a touchdown on the same play, so I’m still getting to hit another player without getting in trouble.”
Leslie first started playing football in the second grade. It was love at first sight and presented a whole new world. Prior to that, Leslie lived in Cairo, Egypt, for three years.
“It’s weird to look back at that experience now, because during that whole time (in Egypt) I had never known that football was even a sport that existed,” he said. “Now I know I could not live life without it.”
He appreciates the life lessons the sport teaches. He respects how it fosters brotherhood.
Leslie said he’s learned how to work with others, how to be coachable and how to thrive under pressure through football. But what he loves most is hitting people.
“I’ve always been the smallest kid on the field, and just getting that opportunity to go and hit a bigger kid and take them to the ground makes me feel like I can do anything,” Leslie said.
Leslie grew up watching the Texans and modeled his running style after Arian Foster.
“The main thing that I saw from him was he didn’t waste time with juking or dancing with the defense,” Leslie said. “Foster only used one cut to get away from defenders, then he was going straight up field. I’ve tried to run that exact way. Just make one cut and go for the end zone.”
Leslie said he is a better athlete and leader this season. During the summer, he increased his overall strength, weight and speed.
He was a State qualifier in the 4x100 last year.
“Competing in track has made me a better football player. It’s made me the fastest version of myself,” Leslie said. “Throughout my years in track, I’ve gotten to showcase speed, but in more recent years it’s been about perfect form so that I can run faster.”
Leslie is more vocal as a leader this year and was rewarded by being named a team captain. On the field, he’s better at reading defenses and spotting holes as they open, doing anything and everything he can to help his team win.
“My mindset in the game is to do my job every play so the team can be successful,” Leslie said. “I know I’m not going to break every single run or make every single tackle but I’m going to give it my all-out effort every single play. What drives me to do my best every play is to glorify God, make my parents and family proud and to not let my teammates down.”