By Betsy Finklea
The achievements both on and off the football field of NFL player and Lake View native, Darius Leonard, were recognized at “Darius Leonard Day” on Saturday, March 16th, at the Lake View Community Center.
Lake View Town Council member Mertis Barnett welcomed everyone to the special event, which was hosted by the Town of Lake View.
Barnett said she had known Leonard and his wife, Kayla, since they were both in first grade. She said during recess, they would take a pinecone or a soda can and play “kill the one with the ball.”
She gave the invocation and thanked God for the opportunity for the community to be able to show their appreciation and pride in a young man who was excelling in the world.
Mayor Matthew Elvington and a proclamation in honor of Leonard.
After the reading of the proclamation, several people made remarks.
Anthony Waters, Leonard’s brother, was the first to speak Waters said he knew the hard work that Leonard had put in to get where he is today. He said leonard was giving kids hope not only in football, but also in life.
Waters said things don’t always go as planned and that was the case with Leonard who had wanted to attend Clemson. He didn’t receive an offer from Clemson, but he did get one from South Carolina State and made the best out of what opportunity. Waters said when Leonard was drafted one newspaper called him “the worst pick in the NFL draft.” Waters said to never accept being average and to not to accept what someone labels you. He said one must “work, work, work.”
Waters said football teachers responsibility, discipline, and leadership. He said one can be the best at what one does if one is willing to work for it. He said when Leonard is on the field playing, he is not just playing for himself but for his family, his community, and for all those who couldn’t do it.
Edison Arnette, principal of Lake View High School, said why he was proud of Leonard had little to do with football. He said he was proud of Leonard when he was high school student and worked hard athletically and academically to get to the next level. He said when Clemson didn’t come, he didn’t hang it up. Instead, he made his path in the world.
Arnette said when Leonard went to S.C. State, he could have transferred at the end, but he stayed at the school that gave him a chance.
Arnette said when the NFL season ended, and other players went to Hawaii and the Bahamas and other places, Leonard came back to Lake View two days after the season ended because he was grounded in this community.
Arnette said he was proud of Leonard because he drove a big truck and listens to country music. He said Leonard is “staying true to himself” and is “making his own path.”
Leonard and Waters for the role they play in the schools. They go to Lake View Elementary School and Lake View High School and talk to the students and encourage them. Leonard is grounded with this family, Arnette said. He takes care of his mother.
Arnette said he is proud of the way Leonard look at his wife with the love he has in his eyes and his child on the way.
Arnette said he is proud of the young man that Leonard has
Coach Daryl King echoed some of the previous comments of Waters and Arnette. He said when he talked with Clemson about Leonard, they said he was not quite big enough and not quite strong enough. He said S.C. State said they got a steal. King said if Leonard never makes another tackle, they will all be proud of him.
Coach Jeffery Caesar said Leonard was his assistant coach. He said Leonard had been his assistant basketball coach for the last three years. He said many people did not know that Leonard has bought the basketball players very expensive shoes, and they had one of the best seasons that they have had in a long time. He said Leonard had not forgotten where he came from now that he is a success.
Tamara Nance-Bethea, Vice-Principal of Lake View High School, said Leonard was an outstanding young man who had worked around obstacles. She said Leonard is always ready to give back—not just money, but time. She said he was a man of extreme character and closed her remarks with some appropriate quotes.
After her remarks, Mayor Matthew Elvington came forward to make remarks and to make a presentation. Elvington said it was the things that Leonard does off the field that has a greater impact than he realizes. After his remarks, he presented Leonard a key to the city. He also read a letter from the Indianapolis Colts organization.
After the reading of the letter, a replica jersey was unveiled with the assistance of Recreation Director Kenny Bethea which will be hung in the recreation department. Then he unveiled the signs that will be placed at the entrances to Lake View that say “Home of Darius Leonard.”
Leonard then made remarks. Leonard said it took a lot for him to be where he is now. He said he wouldn’t be here without his family, and there had been many ups and downs. He said he knew what he wanted when he saw his brother go to college, get a degree, and make it to the NFL. He wanted to work hard to make his mama proud.
He would not take no for an answer. He said when you work for something you embrace it and love it. He said it is not about the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. He said he was not the biggest or the fastest, but he outworked everyone.
Leonard said Lake View means so much to him, and this is what made him what he is today. He thanked the community for this. After concluding remarks by Councilmember Barnett, those in attendance enjoyed a reception.
Photos by Johnnie Daniels/The Dillon Herald
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