MADISON, WISCONSIN – OCTOBER 02: Wisconsin defensive coach Jim Leonhard looks on in the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium on October 02, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Badger Profile: Wisconsin Football Interim Coach Jim Leonhard

On the evening of October second, the Wisconsin Badgers moved on from head coach Paul Chryst.  The breaking news brought immediate shock, as well as mixed reactions.  Both from the fan base, and from inside the program.

Regardless of how anyone feels about it, the move has been made.  It’s time to move on.  Wisconsin Football still has plenty of season to play, and the change in scenery may spark some more life in to this Badgers program and fan base.  In an effort to push along this effort, lets get to know the new man in charge, Jim Leonhard.

Leonhard is Wisconsin down to his beginning.  The new Badgers head coach was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin.  He attended Flambeau High School in Tony, Wisconsin and played quarterback and safety for his high school football team.  He continued his safety career during his secondary education at the University of Wisconsin, starting many years for the Badgers at safety after walking on the team.


Leonard would go on to set the single season interception record with 11 interceptions, and tie the all-time school record with 21 interceptions.  Additionally, the former defensive coordinator turned interim head coach would claim three first-team all Big Ten honors and three all American honors as well.


Despite the impressive collegiate accolades, the Wisconsin native would not hear his name called in the 2005 NFL draft.  Instead, Leonard would have to sign and fight his way on to a roster.  He did so over a 10 year span, for six different teams.  Leonhard retired in 2014.

Leonhard would take a year off from the game before receiving a call from Paul Chryst.  The former all-American would accept the defensive backs coaching position in 2016.  He wasted no time climbing the ranks, taking over as defensive coordinator one year later in 2017.  A Broyles Award finalist in that first year, Leonhard has proven his value to the coaching staff from the very beginning.


Wisconsin Football has had a dominant defensive underneath the current defensive leadership.  Over Leonhard’s five years, the team has achieved top five in total defense and top 10 in scoring defense on four separate occasions.  Numerous NFL draft picks have come the Badgers defense, including five in the most recent NFL draft.  Personally, my favorite stat of a Leonhard defense was back in the 13-win season, when the Badgers allowed only 18 touchdowns in 14 games.

Surely there will be some ups and downs.  Mixed opinions are to be expected.  However, there should be no denying Leonhard’s connection to the school’s program and state.  The Wisconsin native has openly expressed his devotion to the program, with his words and actions, after staying with the program amid NFL jobs knocking at his door.  Excitement is in the cool, Wisconsin fall air with Jim Leonhard at the helm.

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