From walk-on to legend and a decade-long NFL career - few can rival the story of former Badger great Jim Leonhard. However, that story will have a new chapter as Saturday morning the Badgers made official what was rumored on Friday night — Leonhard will be the new defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin.
He’ll take the place of Daronte Jones, who left for a position with the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.
“I’m very appreciative to have Jim join our coaching staff,” Chryst said. “I’m excited for our players and coaches to be able to work with him and learn from him. What makes Jim special is his desire to teach, to help young men grow and to develop them to reach their full potential. He has a tremendous love and appreciation for the University of Wisconsin and our football program.
“Jim has always been a part of our Wisconsin family and I’m looking forward to him impacting this program in a new role.”
This will be Leonhard’s first collegiate coaching position, after retiring from the NFL in 2014 following a 10-year career with Buffalo, Baltimore, the New York Jets, Denver, New Orleans and Cleveland.
No doubt that Leonhard gets what it takes to become a Badger, and his rise from walk-on to being a three time All-American is a huge selling point to potential recruits. Wisconsin is still getting a coach that is raw in exactly that — coaching.
He’ll need to show his mettle quickly, with a group that returns just one full-time starter from last season in cornerback Sojourn Shelton. It’s also a group that will have high standards to live up to, with Wisconsin ranking No. 2 nationally in opponents’ pass efficiency (96.8) last year.
Opponents completed just 49.1 percent of their passes (the third-best mark in the FBS) and averaged only 5.7 yards per attempt (sixth-best in the FBS) against Wisconsin’s defense last season as well. UW allowed only seven touchdown passes in 13 games during 2015, the nation’s second-lowest total.
What is abundantly clear is that the coaching staff under Chryst is becoming a great place to be for former players. There’s no shortage of UW legacies, as Leonhard makes it four alumni on the coaching staff (Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and tight ends coach Mickey Turner).
Leonhard and the Badgers secondary will get to go to major work on March 12, the first spring practice of 15. Wisconsin’s spring will end on April 23 with the annual spring football game.