Brandon Leyh, shown above looking for a receiver during last season’s Uteck Bowl in Sackville, is eager to hit the field this fall.
He was a unanimous choice by coaches in the Atlantic Universities Football Conferences for All-Conference honours and down the backstretch he was ranked near the top among quarterbacks in Canadian college football.
And Brandon Leyh feels he was really just beginning to improve a year ago and is confident that time spent at the training camp of the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders will make him a much better player this time around.
And coach Kelly Jeffrey can barely hide a smile, thinking the game should really be slowed down for his young signal caller.
The native of New Westminister, B.C., has two more seasons of eligibility and there are those in the football community who are predicting he may become All-Canadian caliber, with the possibility of moving on to the professional ranks.
Possessed of an especially powerful arm – described as “a rifle” – Leyh recovered from a mid schedule hiccup when he flamed out at St. F.X. He says Jeffrey took him aside and asked him if he was having fun playing the game.
“Coach J is the best I ever had,” Leyh said following his return this past weekend. “He showed me how the game should be played and after that things seemed to fall into place.”
It was this turnaround that resulted in the Mounties winning their first conference crown in 15 years as he took charge of the airways, consistently hitting his receivers for huge games and touchdowns. It was during the second half when his team rebounded from a 1-4 record to finish 4-4 and then advance along the trail with playoff victories over Acadia, then St. Mary’s in a scintillating Loney Bowl and, finally, a losing effort against Laval in the Uteck Bowl here in Sackville.
The Mounties bounced back from a seven-point deficit in the final minute as Leyh hit receiver Josh Blanchard for seven and after an interception Kyle McLean connected on a field goal for the three-point victory.
And even in defeat Leyh gained national attention for his efforts, which netted 273 yards and a trio of touchdowns against a team nobody could beat.
The 6’2”, 220-pound pivot earned an invitation to the professional camp on the basis of seven games down the stretch in 2013. He says the speed of the CFL game is unbelievable and, due to this, he believes he will be able to better deal with situations in the local conference.
“I went through the drills in every single practice,” he says, “and learned to stay more calm in tough situations and move around a little more.”
Leyh is eagerly awaiting the opening and especially now that Quinn Everett has returned from the CFL and will be offering protection from the line as he is being moved over from defense.
He is one of the team captains running the “captain’s practices” that began two days ago on the soccer field. Other captains like Te Nguyen and Everett are leading the workouts until the coaches are permitted on the field this Friday.
While fans will be looking for the Mounties to fill the air with footballs due to the moving on of All-Canadian tailback Jordan Botel, Leyh believes the running game will be successful but in a different form. But he is looking to the long ball when he says, “We have six receivers who could each be the number one on most teams.”
He also welcomes the fact other teams will be zeroing in on the Mounties believing he has too much support to be overly concerned. And he quickly points out that in backup quarterback Alex Field the team has a player capable of stepping in and taking over at any time.