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New Orleans Saints Tackle Rick LeonardConference Call With New Orleans MediaSaturday, April 28, 2018
Where did you think you would get picked and were you surprised at where you were selected?
"I knew I was going mid-three (round) and it was going to be anywhere. I mean I had a workout with the Saints, I know I did really well. I was surprised. I'm happy that the Saints believe in me like I believe in myself. They see it in me like I see it in me. I am really excited."
Where was that? Was that in New Orleans or back in Florida?
"No, that was in Tallahassee at Florida State."
You didn't do most of the drills at the combine because of an injury. What was that injury and has it healed now?
"Oh yeah. I'm good (now). I just kind of strained my quad and it kind of held me out from running at the combine. It is what it is. I knew it. I'm completely healthy now."
You are a converted defensive end?
"That is correct. I played defensive end my first two years. Offensive tackle two years."
What about high school?
"I played defensive end and that's what they recruited me (for a position to play) out of high school. I (also) played tight end in high school."
Why did you make that switch and how has that transition been?
"My o-line (Rick Trickett) coach came to me and told me he believed in me to make this switch and so I have my defensive coach and my head coach (Jimbo Fisher), they told me what they thought would be best and that I had a future there. And so I trusted them and made the decision to make the switch."
Did you have to gain a bunch of weight after they made that switch?
"Yes, I had to gain about 50 pounds."
Do you feel comfortable as a tackle? Or do you feel like you're still growing at that position?
"I feel great. This is where I'm supposed to be on the (offensive) side of the ball. I'm still growing as a tackle obviously. I mean I've only played two years, but I've learned a hell of lot. I'm just so excited right now."
Did you feel like playing end at all has helped you as a tackle because maybe you might know how guys are trying to attack or anything like that?
"Yes, it has helped a lot. I mean, I understand defenses. I know why guys do things and when they do things, what it looks like and all that stuff. It has definitely helped being on the other side of the ball."
How did you gain 50 pounds fast enough to start right after they switched you?
"It was a lot more difficult than people think. I had to eat a lot, workout a lot. I had to eat like eight times a day. I was 265 about 270 before I switched. And then by the time I started again—Ole Miss in game one I was about 310."
What's that routine look like, are you buying like double dinners? Or eating until you are sick?
"A lot of protein. Probably a loaf of peanut butter bread a day, gallons of milk. Eating when you're not hungry. I had to eat twice after 8:00pm. I mean I just had to put high amounts of calories in my body every day."
You made the switch, at what stage of the season did you make the switch?
"It was right after my sophomore year in December. In January or December."
You said how your coaches suggested the move, who first recommended it? Was it your defensive coaches or the offensive coaches wanted to pull you over to the offensive side?
"Ever since I got to Florida State, my o-line coach, coach (Rick) Trickett, had been on me just like 'man, come play for me. Come play for me and all that stuff.' So five months of it and going into my—after sophomore year, still wasn't playing as much as I would like to, I knew there was a guy in front of me coming back for his senior year, a really good player. So I was probably going to be behind him again. So I went to my d-end coach and I asked him where he thought it'd be best. And he told me I had a bright future at offensive tackle so I went and talk to Coach (Jimbo) Fisher and he told me the same thing. So I said, let's do this."
How much did—Coach Trickett, obviously a big name, how much do you think that helped you get up to speed quickly?
"I owe it all to him for teaching me this game. I don't think if I played for anyone else that I would have had as much knowledge about football so quickly. He was so hard on us about us being a student of the game and watching film. And we went to work, we really went to work every day. In and out, mornings, evenings. It all pays off now because I mean I learned a hell of a lot in only playing two years at offensive line. And I owe a lot of that to him."
When you worked out for the Saints, what kind of feedback did you receive from the team?
"I got good feedback. They came down and worked me out, we went out to lunch after. It was not too much feedback. They told me I was doing well. I knew I was doing well. We didn't really sit there and talk about what I did and how exactly I did it. I knew that they liked me because they were coaching me good. I knew I did well because I watched the film. So yeah, I'm just so excited to be a part of this team."
Did they say what they liked about you or how you got their attention?
"No. I talked briefly to Coach Payton and he just said they were going to pick you after this pick."
Would you probably be a right tackle and that's about it?
"I played right tackle in college. I am confident I can play right and left. I can play guard. I can play anywhere. I know I can and I'm willing to play wherever they need, whatever they need and do whatever this team needs me to do to win."
What about you as a person? What do you do when it's not football?
"I love to play guitar. I'm big into music. I play guitar, I write music. That's really it. That's probably my biggest passion and pastime."
Do you perform anywhere?
"No I don't perform. Me and my buddies play a lot. My brother kind of got me into it like five, six years ago. It's just something I like to do when I have downtime. I mean I love to fish too. I love the outdoors."
Electric or acoustic?
"I play them both, I'm mostly an acoustic guitar player. I really haven't had the time to pick up an electric. I own one but I don't really have that nice of one. But definitely going to plan on learning one soon."
What kind of acoustic guitar?
"I have a mini Martin and I have a epiphone. Those are the two I have."
What did it mean to you after you made that transition to defensive end that you started right away six games during your junior year?
"It meant a lot. Nothing was handed to me. Coach Trickett said the best guy was going to play regardless of who it was. So I had to beat someone out for it. When I got the nod that I was going to start, I was really excited. So I was—I knew I worked my butt off to get where I'm at."
Was that a vacant spot or did you sort of take it from someone?
"No, I took it from the guy who started the last year (2015)."