In any area in life, having a reliable presence that commands respect is critical to establishing success within a program.
As a 6-4, 225 pound two-way player who has also excelled in multiple sports, Kyle Leslie has proven to be that kind of presence time and time again for the Northwest Mohawks.
Now, as a senior, Leslie has a chance to lead a program and command respect in his own way.
However, one could argue to great success that he already has.
And indeed, the All-SOC honoree, who has accomplished all-conference accolades in football and basketball, has garnered the respect of his teammates.
But when you have as much passion as Leslie does in representing the Mohawks the right way, both on and off of the playing surfaces, it’s easy to see why.
“It’s a real honor,” Leslie said of representing Northwest. “I just feel at home. It’s really easy to have an enjoyable time at Northwest. We’ve got a good group of guys that just push you and make sure that you’re doing your best. It really feels good to be a part of this. I just want to help Northwest bring home a SOC I title and put together a good season for the program.”
With one season left to play in his high school career, it’s clear that Leslie has done his best in order to put Northwest in a position to accomplish such a feat. The 6-4 athlete has earned All-SOC I honors in football across back-to-back seasons, and, in addition to repeating the same feat at the SOC II level, obtained All-Southeast District honors in basketball by averaging 12.7 points per contest en route to a Third-Team All-Southeast District selection.
As a result of those successes, Lesile has, unsurprisingly, received collegiate interest from several college programs. Navy, along with NCAA Division III Coast Guard and “a couple of other D-III schools from West Virginia” have shown interest in Leslie’s services as not only a college football player, but, in the case of Navy and Coast Guard, a responsible young man who can serve his country in a strong fashion going forward.
However, Leslie isn’t satisfied with just the individual successes alone — and that’s why he’s encouraging his teammates to put in the work necessary so that the individual accomplishments aren’t all that the Mohawks have to hang their hats on at the end of each season.
“I’m just really pushing people,” Leslie said. “In practice, we’ll be yelling and screaming around, trying to get people rallied around the program. We have great coaches who are showing us the proper techniques and the correct ways to block, tackle, etc. I believe that we’re prepared this year. Last year, we were a little iffy, but this year, we’re really ready to make an impact. We’re been working at this for a long time. We’re ready, and I really believe that we’re going to shock some people. We’ll be pretty good.”
And so far, Leslie believes that his teammates are making the sacrifices necessary to not only get the Northwest football program back to where it was in 2015, when the Mohawks finished 7-3 compared to a 1-9 finish last season, but to push the program to even higher levels by listening to the details that Doug Montavon and his coaching staff are preaching to Leslie and his teammates.
“I really believe that we’re back to that 7-3 attitude,” Leslie said. “This year, it’s definitely been a different atmosphere, and I really feel like we can shock people, go after the (SOC I) title, and be a really good team this year. “The coaches make you feel at home. They’re not only making us want to practice, but they’re pushing us. We all want to be out there around them. They’re really close to all of us.”
Much of the leadership that Leslie has learned over the years has come courtesy of his older brother, Hank, who is a 2010 Northwest High School graduate. Hank was a three time All-Southeast District and All-Ohio honoree in basketball while scoring 21, 23, and 23 points per contest in each of his three seasons with the Mohawks, and a four-time All-SOC honoree in track while qualifying for state across three separate seasons. His basketball prowess, however, was good enough for Jeff Hamilton and Shawnee State to come calling as the 6-4 athlete obtained a opportunity to play roundball at the school.
After averaging 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds per game for the Bears on 50 percent shooting from the field in eight minutes of playing time, Hank was well on his way to a larger role with the SSU basketball program. Instead, the elder Leslie gave that opportunity up to pursue a much larger purpose in life — a military career with the Navy. Leslie not only ended up participating on the school’s track and field squad, but graduated from the Navy and used his education to become a pilot and a naval officer.
While some individuals may take those learning opportunities from afar for granted, Kyle certainly hasn’t. That’s proven by his work in the classroom — where Leslie has been named to the Junior Honors Club and the prestigious Top20 Club as a result of his dedication as a student-athlete — and in his attitude, where a humble approach keeps Leslie wanting more.
“It’s all about just being a part of a bigger thing,” Leslie said. “Just seeing where (Hank) has been, everything that he’s done for others, and how he gives back to others is big. He’s showing people that there is another side. No matter how hard things are in our everyday lives, there’s always going to be a bigger picture. It’s just about going out there and doing better for everyone else as well as yourself, and he’s really given back by protecting individuals across the world and serving our country. It’s really awesome, I think.”
As Kyle Leslie enters his senior year, the 6-4 student-athlete knows that there’s a lot out there for the taking as far as academic and athletics are concerned.
However, regardless of where those areas ultimately take Leslie, he’ll always be proud to don the Mohawk colors.
“I’m really proud to say that I’m a Mohawk, and I’m really proud to be from this area,” Leslie said. “I just want to leave a mark. I want to look back and say that in my senior year, this team was able to accomplish each of the goals that it set out to obtain. I want to let these guys know that if we really work at this, it will show that we can do whatever we set our minds to.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7