Leonhard turns down Packers, follows his love for Madison
If you haven’t heard, the Green Bay Packers were in the market for a new defensive coordinator after the release of Mike Pettine after the Packers decided to let his contract run out.
With Green Bay coming off a NFC Championship loss for the second straight year under head coach, Matt LaFleur the name many are familiar with in our neck of the woods, Jim Leonhard was thrown around as a possible candidate for the Packers open position to lead their defense.
Leonhard, 38, a Tony, WI native was a walk-on defensive back at Wisconsin in 2001. He went on to be a three-time All-American and three-time All-Big Ten selection before carving out a 10-year NFL career. In 2016, he joined the Wisconsin coaching staff as a defensive backs coach and was promoted one year later to defensive coordinator.
After receiving an invitation to interview by the Packers, Leonhard was one of the final two candidates along with Joe Barry of the Los Angeles Rams.
Over the weekend, rumors were swirling that Leonhard had been offered the position in Green Bay, and with-in hours of social media chatter, it was reported that Leonhard had turned down the Packers to stay where his heart is in Madison. “It was me choosing UW,” Leonhard told Tom Oates and Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal . “I want to stay at UW. I want to be at this level right now. Extremely flattered. Awesome opportunity. But it was not the right time for me to go back to the NFL.”
Leonhard stated that he was just about out the door after two virtual meetings with the Packers as he called a “long shot” when stating his ability to leave his position in Madison.
In the end, staying with Wisconsin – and continuing to build and guide the Badgers football program while keeping his wife Katie and young family in Madison is what ultimately kept Leonhard from taking the step to the NFL,” Leonhard commented to Oates and Wilde.
Many Badger fans breathed a sigh of relief when Leonhard made the decision to stay as the Badgers have been nationally ranked in the top five in points, total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, completion percentage and third down conversions under the Tony native.
Once considered a long shot and under dog in all he did coming out of the small rural school in Tony, WI. Leonhard is no longer that. He is making a a name for himself as a coach just like he did as a player. With hard work, dedication, a love for the game and humility. In the end, the Packers lost out on an amazing opportunity to gain a coach like Jim Leonhard, but the future of the Badgers is solid under his leadership on defense. One thing that is for sure as well, is that the future of the NFL is looking goo as well as Leonhard will be motivated to continue to prepare his Badger players to take the next step to the NFL and in the end could pay off still for the Green Bay Packers.