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Former Wisconsin Football Coach Jim Leonhard Has Some ‘Irons in the Fire’

Wisconsin Badgers great Jim Leonhard is gearing up to take an NFL job.



Wisconsin Badgers football legend Jim Leonhard
Nov 5, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Jim Leonhard looks on during the first quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Former University of Wisconsin football interim head coach Jim Leonhard has followed a unique journey since departing from the Badgers after the 2022 season—and has largely flown under the radar ever since.

Following his departure from the Badgers, where he served as the defensive coordinator for six seasons and gained a reputation as one of the brightest young minds in the sport, Leonhard found himself in a new role as a senior analyst on Bret Bielema’s coaching staff at Illinois.

Bielema brought Leonhard on board as an analyst in July 2023, allowing him to split his time between Champaign and the Madison area, where he spent time with his family during the season.

Despite Leonhard’s extensive experience and brand cachet, his name wasn’t featured prominently in discussions during the offseason coaching carousel, indicating a potential shift in his career trajectory.

That said, the silence on his next move (while vague) finally broke when Jeremy Werner reported that Jim Leonhard remains part of the Illinois staff, with the possibility of staying on board if other coaching opportunities don’t materialize.

“If he [Leonhard] doesn’t have the things that he wants … not in college, I think we would be back at it,” Bielema said. “He literally sent a report a couple weeks ago that was unbelievably detailed and great ideas and thoughts… I know he’s got some irons in the fire. That’s his business.”

Former Wisconsin Football Coach Jim Leonhard Has Some ‘Irons in the Fire’

Wisconsin Badgers coach Jim Leonhard

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard questions touchdown call during the second quarter of their game Saturday, September 25, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. Notre Dame beat Wisconsin 41-13.
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Despite his interim head coaching stint with Wisconsin football that began in October 2022 and ended in a 4-3 record, Jim Leonhard ultimately decided to part ways with his alma mater after Luke Fickell was appointed head coach, despite being offered a chance to stay.

It’s not exactly a secret that becoming the head coach of the Badgers was his dream job and that plotting his next move would take some time.

However, Leonhard’s preference for a non-collegiate coaching role suggests his interest in transitioning to the NFL coaching ranks, where recruiting and NCAA-related responsibilities are less prevalent.

While the NFL hiring carousel nears its conclusion, Leonhard remains an intriguing figure in coaching circles. What coaching job would make sense? Does it come down to location? Only he knows at this point.

All we know is that Jim Leonhard has “some irons on the fire,” hinting at some potential developments in the near future. Wisconsin football fans and observers alike will be eager to see where Leonhard’s coaching journey takes him.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.