James Leonard, Aquinas
1. What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “I think the difference-maker in winning and losing is your community. To me, this includes your coaching staff, administration, faculty and fan base. I have been very lucky since I took over to have a great coaching staff every year. Coach Jim Connor told me when he brought me into this business to always hire good people that I thought were better coaches than I am. I believe that to be true of all my staff members over the years. You would be hard-pressed to find an administration that supports their athletic programs like ours does here at Aquinas. It doesn’t stop in the front office, either. When you come to an Aquinas athletic event, if a teacher isn’t already working one of the gates, they are in the stands cheering on the Irish. Lastly, our fan base is something special. We take home-field advantage to a different level. From the Irish walk to the student section with their confetti cannons, nobody does it better that our fans.”
2. Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “Two players came to mind when I read this question: John Morris and Connor Sweeney. Both of these kids are the type that makes you be both a better person and coach just being around them. We give out a Heart and Soul award at the end of each season. This award goes to the kid that we think best represents what we want an Aquinas football player to be. John and Connor both received this award their senior year. John and Connor were great team players both on and off the field. They gave you everything they had on the field and were always helping out around the school off of the field. John is now attending Mercer University while Connor is at Georgia Tech.”
3. What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “The best atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of besides playing at home would have to be Lincoln County. Every time we go to Lincoln, the place is electric. They have a very supportive and loyal fan base. They have always been very good to us when we visit, and it’s always a great place to watch a good high school football game.”
4. As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “It would have to be the 2014 semifinal game vs. Mount Paran. The atmosphere was awesome that night on both sides and was a very fun game to be a part of. It was a very tight defensive battle for the first three quarters before they pulled away in the fourth. It was the game that ended a pretty good win streak for us. They had what I believe to be one of the best single-A football teams I’ve ever seen.” [Aquinas had won 26 consecutive games. Mount Paran won the Class A private-school championship.]
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.