Against Central Kitsap last week, Shawn Leonard caught six passes for 91 yards. And while that was the Peninsula High School junior’s best day receiving so far, he has quietly, and increasingly, been producing as a running back, receiver and safety for the Seahawks.
“He’s not super loud or outspoken — he just produces,” said Peninsula coach Ross Filkins. “He prepares himself in all three phases and is just ready to go.”
Leonard is a bit of a Swiss Army knife for the Seahawks — he’s capable of fulfilling most any task. On offense, his versatility as a running back and someone Peninsula quarterback Burke Griffin can rely on in the short to intermediate passing game has been invaluable.
“He’s got a quick cut, quick twitch,” Griffin said. “I can throw him the ball, too. He has great hands.”
Leonard saw limited time on the varsity squad last year, but this year, has earned more playing time.
“The game is coming easier to me,” Leonard said. “At running back, I’m just seeing the holes better, knowing my assignments. My confidence has grown, just getting more experience, getting in the game more.”
While Braeden Potter remains the team’s No. 1 running back, Peninsula prides itself on having a “faceless offense,” spreading the ball around and featuring different players.
“We’re never going to just feature one guy,” Leonard said. “We can attack defenses in a lot of different ways.”
The 5-foot-11 Leonard is described my teammates and coaches as soft-spoken but fiercely competitive. In the passing game, Griffin has learned to have faith in Leonard to make guys miss after the catch and rack up first downs.
“Of his catches (against Central Kitsap), most of them were on third down, and he goes and picks up a first down,” Griffin said. “I have a ton of faith in him. From a QB standpoint, my sophomore year, I learned that sometimes you just have to trust your guys to make the play and go pick up the first down. Shawn’s lateral speed is phenomenal. When he decides to cut back, he’s awesome. I have total faith in him to make guys miss.”
Leonard transitioned from playing nickel last season to safety this year, which he said has been a more natural fit for his skillset.
“It’s been a big help for me,” Leonard said. “I like playing in deep coverage, being able to read the quarterback. I just think with my mobility, I’m able to get around the field quickly and rely on my instincts.”
Griffin faces him every day in practice, and has been impressed with the safety’s play.
“He’s not afraid to stick his nose in anywhere,” Griffin said. “He’s fearless on both sides of the ball, smart, and is learning to read the QB’s eyes and make plays. He has a great grasp of what’s going on with the defense. He’s a tough safety to try to look off. He’s smart back there and has the athleticism to go with it.”
Whether he’s at running back, receiver, safety, or returning punts or kickoffs, Leonard has made an impact for the Seahawks this season.
“He’s a team player, he’s a Peninsula football player, he’s bought into the system we have,” Griffin said. “He’s a true team player. He steps up wherever we need him to. He’s a guy who doesn’t come off the field for us.”