Dallin Leavitt comes from a BYU family. His father played for the Cougars in the 1980s when BYU enjoyed a great amount of football success. Leavitt is eager to graduate from high school and move to Provo so he can get his college football experience rolling.
“We actually graduate really late, so no, I have not yet graduated.” he said. “Seniors get out on June 6th.”
Due to transfer rules, Leavitt was unable to participate in spring sports.
“I transferred from Central Catholic to Westview, so I was forced to sit out of this spring sports session, but it’s alright.” Leavitt said. “I actually didn’t participate last spring either, because the track coach and I couldn’t work out a practice schedule for me to allow me to continue doing my football-centered workouts and his track practices at the same time. In the end I just decided football was more important than track.”
BYU has issued its 2013 recruiting class a football training packet, which gives its future enrollees a workout plan to help them get up to speed with the rigorous summer workouts and fall camp.
“I’ve been working on that in addition to attending a private training facility in Vancouver, Washington.” Leavitt said. “[My trainer’s] name is Ryan Paul, and the place is called New Athlete. He has pretty much changed me as an athlete. The stuff that he does is really, really different from your conventional bench, squat, power clean. It’s a lot different. A lot of the times we don’t touch a lot of weights necessarily, a lot of it is just the way your body has to contract, and being able to pull with your hamstrings and turn off of your quads. A lot of people think that you run with your quads, but you run with your hamstrings completely.
"He has kind of changed me … like when I first went in to his program I could bench 225 about six times or so, and two weeks ago I did it 18 times. He has taken my vertical from 33 to 37 now, and I’ve been training with him for about four, five months, just since the football season got over. I feel great, I feel healthy, this is the healthiest I’ve ever been. My forty time has dropped, my shuttle has dropped, I guess all my combine numbers are way, way improved from what they were before. He’s just a great dude, he really cares about his athletes, so I love training up there.”
As a point of reference, 225 pounds is how much is lifted at the NFL combine each year. Leavitt’s 18 reps on the bench would have put him in sixth place on the bench in this year’s combine at the safety position. Former Cougar Ezekiel Ansah, who was drafted fifth overall this year, did 21 reps as a defensive lineman.
“Yeah man, that’s actually my goal,” said Leavitt. “By the time I leave here to head down to Provo I want to get to 21 reps on my bench.”
New Athlete is the same place that Brayden Kearsley trained at. The extra training has impacted Leavitt’s forty time as well, as he noted earlier. He expounded on that:
“Man, it’s hard to say. There are just so many different standards … For the high school standards I probably run mid 4.4s, maybe high 4.4s. But I mean by NFL standards, I would not say anything lower than a 4.57, but I also feel like a very important part of being a defensive back and having football speed is being able to open up your hips to turn and run. I’ve made huge strides in this, I feel a lot more smooth now, and a lot more effective with my steps. I don’t have to take a half step in between to open and go, I’m now flexible enough to just turn and get out. I’m not really training for a combine, I mean I’ve got four years before I make an attempt at that goal, so right now it’s just more football-specific.”
With the devastating injury that ended Trenton Trammell’s season before it began, and the departure of dual-sport athlete Jacob Hannemann after he was selected by the Cubs in the MLB draft, BYU is suddenly thinner than anticipated at the corner position. Leavitt was originally recruited by BYU as both a corner and a safety.
“I don’t really care where I play, I’d play anywhere as long as I get on that field. I think [Coach Howell] wants me at free, boundary, and nickel. So he wants me to just learn all the positions on the defense, and the more you understand the more you’ll be able to be on the field.” Leavitt said. “So I don’t know that there is one position that I specifically need to pay attention to, I guess you could say, but just learn them all.”
Leavitt had a busy – yet not too public – recruitment, with schools such as BYU, Oregon and Oregon State recruiting him the hardest.
“Oregon actually recruited me the hardest, other than BYU. I really liked Coach Neal, who is actually a BYU guy up there. He is just a really good dude, and I really connected with him well. So it was basically down to Oregon and BYU, and the difference for me was that on the football side of things I loved the family mentality and atmosphere that BYU has. I didn’t want to go to a football factory like Oregon has become. I’m not trying to knock Oregon at all, I really like them, but I didn’t want to just be a number. I want to feel important, I want to feel loved, I want to feel like I’m a part of the team. I feel the way the coaches are at BYU, they’re all amazing people and check up on me outside of football, like in the classroom and spiritually. There is a life outside of football, and I don’t feel like I could accomplish those goals as easily in Eugene as I could at BYU.”
Leavitt is LDS, and him looking for things outside of football is a reason he chose BYU. Is he currently planning on a mission?
“That’s kind of up in the air right now,” Leavitt said. “I’m leaving that option open, and we’ll have to see. I don’t want to say yes or no, because I honestly don’t know yet.”
BYU’s defense was a top-five defense last season by most accounts and dominated many games, including the bowl victory against San Diego State. Did watching this defense have any impact on his verbal commitment?
“I feel like I’m a man of my word, so I don’t know if it really had any impact on my decision,” said Leavitt. “I knew I wanted to be at BYU, and from the day I committed I was going to BYU. However, watching that defense all year fly around, and thinking ‘Wow, I’m going to play for the third-best defense in the nation,’ really made me excited and I felt so blessed. Those guys play so hard, they’re so physical, and if someone misses a tackle you better believe there are three guys right there to have your back.
“Then you’ve got Ziggy and his story and where he’s at, it’s just crazy. Also, Preston Hadley is a dude I’ve really looked up to, and the way he plays and how hard he plays, and how hard he practices … all these things about that defense and the way they play, and the passion with which they play, really makes it a special unit. That’s how I play as well. If you’re lined up opposite me, it’s my job to knock you out, and that is a mindset that BYU’s defense has as well.”
Coaches have been keeping in contact regularly with commitments from the 2013 class, and Leavitt is no exception.
“I always talk with either Coach Howell, or Coach Poppinga, and I’d probably talk to both of them each about once a week. Poppinga asks me about the area because it’s his recruiting area, and they’ll ask me about BYU’s defense, because I’m trying to learn it. Other than that, it’s just, ‘How are you?’ How’s your family?’ You know, stuff like that, not football related.”
Leavitt has obviously put in a lot of time and effort into his body and into getting ready to go for the football season. He has also set some personal goals for his upcoming freshman year.
“I want to get good grades,” he said. “My goal is to have a 3.5 [GPA] by the end of my freshman year. We’re student athletes, and students come first. Football-wise I want to be on every single special teams. I’ve returned kicks and punts since my freshman year, so it would be fun to kind of have that opportunity – punt and kickoff teams for sure, just getting on the field however I can. I want to work into rotation obviously if I can, but I want to help the team win anyway I can. I just want to be ready, and focused … ready to go if someone ever gets dinged up on a play. I want to be ready to go contribute in a moment’s notice.”
Now it’s only a matter of several days until Leavitt arrives in Provo.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
Cougar fans share his excitement.