Even by CFL standards — a league full of quirks, abnormalities and oddballs — A.C. Leonard’s rise to stardom is pretty weird.
Leonard was twice named a Second-Team FCS All-American while playing tight end at Tennessee State. He caught 85 passes for 1,174 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons en route to an NFL shot with the Minnesota Vikings.
The six-foot-two, 250-pound target spent a brief period of time playing in the Arena Football League before signing with the B.C. Lions in 2015. It’s unusual for CFL teams to dress American tight ends, but then-head coach Jeff Tedford had a strong background in the NCAA.
Leonard caught 17 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in B.C. but was released at the end of the season. He signed with Saskatchewan in May 2016, but head coach and defensive coordinator Chris Jones didn’t have interest in playing him at tight end.
The Florida native was asked to convert to defensive end in Regina, which made sense given his frame. Learning a new position at the professional level is tough, but Leonard excelled.
Leonard recorded 68 total tackles, ten sacks, and one forced fumble over two years in Jones’ defence, establishing himself as an up-and-coming passer rusher in the CFL.
He signed a one-year contract worth $150,000 with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2018 and posted new career-highs with 49 tackles and six sacks. He was not re-signed by the team and returned to Saskatchewan for the following year.
Leonard had his best season in 2019, recording 44 tackles, nine sacks, and three forced fumbles. He and Charleston Hughes formed arguably the best pass-rushing bookends in the CFL, combining for 27 quarterback takedowns.
Leonard is under contract with Saskatchewan for 2021 and will make $140,000 after restructuring his contract. Hughes, meanwhile, remains a pending free agent.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
34. QB Vernon Adams Jr., Montreal Alouettes
35. DB Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders
36. DB Aaron Grymes, B.C. Lions
37. LB Larry Dean, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
38. OL Ucambre Williams, Calgary Stampeders
39. DB Ciante Evans, Montreal Alouettes
40. K/P Justin Medlock, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
41. REC DaVaris Daniels, Toronto Argonauts
42. DT Micah Johnson, B.C. Lions
43. OL Shane Bergman, Calgary Stampeders
44. SAM Don Unamba, Ottawa Redblacks
45. DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
46. DB Tommie Campbell, Toronto Argonauts
47. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
48. REC DeVier Posey, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
49. DT Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DT Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Edmonton Football Team
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions