Jordan Leal may not have hugs for everyone in Pride Nation, smile so much that he should be in a toothpaste commercial or wear jersey No. 8. But make no mistake, there will not be a step back in defensive leadership at Mountain Pointe now that Izzy Marshall is at Arizona State.
Leal has been a linebacker understudy of his brother, Joey, and Marshall during the last two successful Pride seasons and he has learned well.
"I might go about it a different way because Izzy was Mr. Nice Guy (after games with the fans), but I will put people in check," Leal said. "I have no problem telling someone they need to do something or they did something wrong. Izzy did it, too, when he felt it was needed. It is part of the discipline we need as a defense."
Leal is a 5-foot-11, 210-pound middle linebacker who has started 26 games over the last two years. He has led more by example since starting as a sophomore while Joey Leal, a senior in 2009, and Marshall, a senior last season, took control of things previously.
Now it falls on Leal and there is no questioning it.
"He is the heart and soul of our defense," senior defensive lineman Raynon Blackshire said. "Jordan is the man. He makes all of the calls and he works hard. We know if we do our job as linemen he is going to clean up (by tackling the ball carrier)."
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan pointed to Blackshire, Leal and sophomore safety Jalen Brown as the defensive leaders.
"That's a good group right there," Vaughan said. "They are pretty vocal and I suspect they will get things done."
Leal's strengths are his speed (he was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a combine) and instincts. His drawback, as far as Division I recruiters are concerned, is his size.
Last year he was second on the team in tackles (45) and tied for the lead in sacks (5.0), while also scoring six touchdowns as a fullback.
"I've seen just about everything there is to see," said Leal, who has heard from Ivy League schools with Yale showing the most interest. "When I was a freshman, all I wanted to do was play on the big field with the varsity. I didn't expect it to be the next year and it was a big step, but now that experience helps me."
Vaughan said there were some trying times, as to be expected, when Leal was a sophomore, which was the former's first year leading the Pride.
"He was the deer in the headlights then and his brother brought him along," Vaughan said. "It was a lot to ask as a sophomore, but he had a heck of a season."
Joey, who was the East Valley Region Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, is now a redshirt freshman at Adams State. It was a unique opportunity two years ago when the brothers had the chance to start next to each other.
"The first couple of times I didn't realize how special it was, but toward the end of the season when I realized he was going to be at college (in 2010) did I understand that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Jordan said. "He really helped and showed me how to go about things the right way."
It seeped into Leal's approach and continued this offseason when he knew that he had only so many games left in a Pride uniform.
"I gave it my all every time we lifted (weights) and every time we hit the field," he said. "It's my senior year and I am giving 100 percent in everything thing I do."
That includes continuing the mentoring process. Like his brother and Marshall did for him, Leal is trying to do the same for first-year starter Chris Handgis, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior.
"He hasn't been starting but he will hit you," Leal said. "He is the hardest hitter on the team by far."
Maybe so, but Leal has just about everything else covered.
"He is a well-rounded linebacker who can do it all," Vaughan said. "He isn't getting as much (college) attention as he should only because of his size. He can play at the next level."
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