Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is one of the fastest rising assistants in football, and maybe one of the most honest, based on a Wednesday interview:
Just two years removed from his 10-year NFL career, Jim Leonhard joined the staff at his alma mater Wisconsin as defensive backs coach in 2016. One year later, Leonhard was somewhat unexpectedly promoted to defensive coordinator, after Justin Wilcox left to take the head coaching job at Cal.
Things have gone extremely well for Leonhard in just two total seasons of coaching. Leonhard’s unit finished third in scoring defense and second in total defense nationally, up from fourth and seventh in 2016, respectively. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant.
He’s happy at Wisconsin under Paul Chryst, but that doesn’t mean that Leonhard won’t look at other opportunities if given the chance. In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Wilde And Tausch, Leonard said as much. Via 247Sports:
“I did receive a lot of attention,” Leonhard said on Wilde and Tausch. “I’m happy being at Wisconsin right now, but I’m also going to listen and see what’s out there, see the opportunities that come my way.
“That doesn’t change the fact about how I feel about this place. Glad to be in the position I am. Did not necessarily think things would be moving this fast as far as the opportunities. Just taking it day-by-day and enjoying the process.”
He did reiterate that he loves it at Wisconsin, and hadn’t really thought about potential NFL opportunities.
“It is hard to say,” he said. “I do love coaching in college. I do love being at my alma mater. Honestly, trying to take this program to place it hasn’t been. 13 wins this year has never been done in school history. Just want to push it here.
“As far as the NFL, I don’t really know. Haven’t thought about it too much.”
Based on the interview, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything imminent with Leonhard. If anything, his rapid rise through the coaching ranks has somewhat outpaced his media training.