Texas A&M's defense was led first and foremost by the strength of its star-studded line. Now, one of its leaders has signed his rookie contract.
Former A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal has agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Leal was a two-year starter for the Aggies, playing a variety of positions across the defensive line, including defensive and three-tech.
Steelers used the No. 84 selection on Leal in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He is expected to compete for reps at defensive end opposite Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward in the team's 3-4 base defense.
Multiple scouts believed throughout the draft process that Leal would be limited due to his size to a three-man front. The Steelers have been one of the pioneers in running a four-linebacker set with two athletic pass rushers coming off the edge, making it an ideal fit for Leal's style of play.
“Really like him as a football player,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said, via the team's website. “Really versatile. Plays multiple positions across the line. We think he has an opportunity to be a good player for us. He offers us some versatility. Has the frame to get a little bit bigger. He does some things pass-rush wise, run game wise, that we really like and we value here."
Leal entered the draft as one of the top defensive linemen prospects on the board, but his stock dipped over in recent months. In fact, Leal was even seen as a first-round candidate in recent NFL mock drafts.
Last season, Leal started 12 games in 2021 and totaled 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss, leading the Aggies in both categories. For his A&M career, he tallied 113 total tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
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He was named a consensus All-American for his efforts last fall.
“I bring youth, confidence. I’m extremely disruptive, and I’m smart on the field,” Leal said following his selection. “I am intelligent when it comes to what I see, my instincts and following those, so I feel like that’s something to bring to the table.”
If you ask Aggies' coach Jimbo Fisher, that should come as no surprise, because even before he stepped foot on Texas A&M's campus, he was already recognized as the type of prospect that you can build your entire program around.
“He’s what you want to lay the foundation of your organization on,” Fisher said. “He’s one of those types of guys. Kenyon is that group. We’re blessed in that group with some really special guys.”
Leal was the second Aggie taken in the draft, joining offensive lineman Kenyon Green, who was taken No. 15 overall by the Houston Texans in the first round. He was one of four prospects to hear their name called during the three-day weekend along with Green, defensive end Micheal Clemons (No. 117) and running back Isaiah Spiller (No. 123).
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