OAKLAND, Calif. – Former Bemidji State University football All-American tight end Brian Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.) signed a three-year undrafted free agent contract with the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders late Sunday and was announced as one of 14 undrafted free agents today by Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie.
Leonhardt will participate in the Raiders rookie mini-camp May 10-12 at their Alameda practice facility. The rookie mini-camp includes first-year players, draftees, undrafted free agents, tryout players and last season’s practice squad players.
“It’s a dream come true,” Leonhardt said. “Every kid grows up dreaming to play in the NFL and now I’m going to get a chance to. It’s surreal getting that contract, having it printed out and signing it, it was really special.
“After the draft, (Oakland’s) tight ends coach called me and they were offering me a tryout. The next day my agent called me and was like hey, ‘They decided to sign you, you are now an Oakland Raider.’ I went from not being the happiest camper on Saturday, to being in a pretty good mood on Sunday.”
“I’m just elated for him,” said head Bemidji State football coach Jeff Tesch. “That was his dream to get into an NFL camp and now to have the opportunity, I couldn’t be more happy for him.”
Last season, the Raiders went 4-12 with a 2-4 AFC West record.
The Oakland Raiders had three tight ends on its roster before drafting two more in the sixth round of the NFL Draft Saturday.
Leonhard added, “It’s going to put me in a hard spot with them having two drafted tight ends, but I’m hoping they are going to give us all the same chance, (let us) build from there and compete for one of their starting spots.”
“Two weeks ago (Oakland) flew him in for an 5-hour interview, he didn’t workout or do anything,” Tesch said. “It was something they saw in the video or in that all-star game that they liked. For a Division II player (to make it to the next level), you have to be a rock solid kid, no problems off the field, a good student, good character and Brain is all that.”
In 87 seasons of football at Bemidji State, just one player has ever played a regular season game in the NFL. A 1986 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Second Team All-American running back, Al Wolden played three games for the Chicago Bears during the 1987 season. He totaled two rushing attempts for eight yards and brought in one reception for 26 yards.
One of the most decorated student-athletes to ever don the green and white, Leonhardt was named All-American on the gridiron and Academic All-American off the field in both 2011 and 2012.
Despite battling injuries all season in 2012, Leonhardt started 10 games and was honored as a 2012 BSN Division II All-America First Team member and was North Division All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference First Team Offense. The tight end posted 25 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns. His reception and reception yardage numbers were third on the team in 2012, while the three scores put him in a four-way tie for first. He averaged 34.3 yards per game, 13.7 yards per reception and had a season-long reception of 38 yards. He posted a season-high 93 yards on seven receptions at University of Mary Oct. 6. An extension of the offensive line, Leonhardt helped guide the Beavers to 170.8 rushing yards per game and 20 touchdowns.
He capped his career with 15 touchdowns to tie for eighth at Bemidji State all-time and his 112 career receptions are 10th at BSU. Leonhardt finished his career with 1,431 reception yards to rank second among BSU tight ends since 1971.
In the classroom, Leonhardt was named Capital One Academic All-America Division II Football First Team in 2012 and second team in 2011. He completed his degree in business administration with a 3.72 GPA. He was a three-time academic all-district award winner and three-time Fall NSIC All-Academic Team member.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).