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Riley Leonard: Coach Cut Didn't Have to Give Me a Duke Pitch

2021 quarterback commit discusses his recruitment and decision

Quarterback Riley Leonard committed to Duke earlier this week, choosing the Blue Devils over Syracuse, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.

Leonard spoke with Blue Devil Country in an exclusive interview about his wild week.

“It’s super exciting for me,” he said. “The recruiting process is hard on the recruit. It’s a blessing to be recruited, but I’m glad to be able to settle in with one school.”

His hometown has been very supportive of Leonard’s success and opportunity.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” he said, “So, like the entire city knows about it. Everywhere I go—I walk into a restaurant, they’ll start chanting, ‘Duke’ and everything. I don’t have any regrets about my decision. I’m just extremely excited to get rolling.”

Despite being in the heart of SEC country in Fairhope, Alabama, his neighbors don’t hold any ill will toward Leonard’s decision to leave for the ACC.

“They’re nice people,” he said. “They know what type of school Duke is, so they’re excited for me.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe also came to the Blue Devils after growing up in SEC territory, and he was a big factor in Leonard’s college choice.

“Obviously, the Coach Cut reason,” Leonard said. “He didn’t have to give me a pitch or anything. I knew what he’s capable of. What made it even better is what he talks about off the field, and how he develops his players for the rest of their lives. Duke’s a 40-year school, not a four-year school for me. For the rest of my life, I’ll be able to walk around with pride on my chest saying I went there.”

After listing all the positives about Duke, Leonard looked at the other schools he was considering to compare them.

“I matched it up against other schools, and I looked at the pros and cons,” he said, “and I realized there aren’t any (cons) at Duke.”

Duke got an assist from a connection between Cutcliffe and some of Leonard’s coaches.

“My quarterback coach out of Mobile, David Morris,” Leonard said. “He played for Coach Cut at Ole Miss.”

Morris, now an instructor at the Quarterback Country training and development company, played for Cutcliffe from 1998 to 2002, serving as Eli Manning’s backup for his last two seasons.

“My new offensive coordinator, who just came in at Fairhope (High School), he knows Coach Cut a little bit. Not that they influenced my decision at all, but they definitely told me some things about him. I have as much respect for him as anybody. I’m excited to pick his brain this offseason and then get rolling with him.”