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It has been 42 years since a Laurentian made it to the NFL, but senior Leondre Simmons hopes to change that. Simmons, a cornerback/wide receiver, caught the attention of numerous NFL teams and spent the offseason showcasing his talent at multiple pro-day events. Although Simmons was not picked in the NFL Draft last weekend, the Freeport, N.Y native is optimistic about his future with or without football.“The whole going pro thing’ started last year when the Redskins and Cardinals came up to campus to work me out. Then I was like ‘I got a shot,’” said Simmons. “I never really thought I’d take it this far.” After his senior season in which he was named a Division III All-American at the cornerback position for the second year in a row, he declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. “I watched the first round (of the draft) for a little bit but I didn’t watch after that,” said Simmons. “I like the suspense, but they’re gonna call you so I wasn’t just gonna sit around all day. I’d rather work out.”
Although his agent had spoken to a number of NFL teams, such as the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Giants, and the Washington Redskins, Simmons’ name was not called. As an undrafted free agent, Simmons remains optimistic. “I’m focused on making it this year and if I don’t, I’m going to try again next year, just as hard if not harder. I’ll be even more prepared than I was this year,” he said.
“The only thing Leondre needs is an opportunity. He deserves a shot, whatever happens to him,” said Saints Football Head Coach Dan Puckhaber. Puckhaber also spoke of one of Simmons’ stand out performances in a game against Union College last season. One play in particular, after catching a touchdown while up on offense, Simmons moved back to his position on defense. On the next play from scrimmage he intercepted the quarterback’s pass and returned it for a defensive touchdown, scoring two touchdowns in a matter of seconds. “He’s special,” said Puckhaber. “Players like Leondre make coaches like me look good.”
Despite not playing organized football until his senior year of high school, Simmons was the Saints’ starting cornerback throughout his collegiate career. He tallied 15 interceptions and made other key defensive contributions in tackles and passes defended. He attributes his defensive skills to many years spent playing basketball. “The coordination and hip motions…it all translates to the cornerback position,” said Simmons. “It all worked out in my favor.”
During his junior and senior years, Simmons was also put in at wide receiver. Playing on both sides of the line of scrimmage, he continued to thrive, finishing his offensive career with 25 receptions for 324 yards and nine touchdowns. While often recognized for his on-the-field achievements, Simmons is also known for his exceptional off-the-field character. “He’s a stand up character,” said Puckhaber. “Leondre makes the football team and campus a better place. I’d let him babysit my child.”
“I would say he’s a very approachable person despite how good he is on the field,” said Saints first-year offensive lineman Christian Milevski. “A lot of people can take that a different path, but he’s always working hard, always in the weight room, and never in a bad situation.” Milevski also mentioned that Simmons helped show him around campus at the beginning of the year.
Although still hopeful of pursuing his career in the pros, Simmons stated how he is willing to “settle down” if he eventually did not make it to the NFL. As a Sociology major and Sports Studies and Exercise Science minor, Simmons aspires to one day become a high school dean and to coach high school basketball. He is also working towards earning his coaching degree.
At the moment, the future remains uncertain for Leondre Simmons. However, his character and work ethic remains unquestioned. “Football is my number one priority right now in terms of a career after college. I’ll just continue to work out until this opportunity comes up,” said Simmons. “Right now, I’m still waiting for the call.”