Lakeville South QB Mitch Leidner threw for more than 2,000 yards as a junior. /Photo courtesy of Paul Thierry
Mitch Leidner's size made football coaches think one thing. His throwing ability made them think quite another.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Leidner – who just finished his junior year at Lakeville South – initially attracted the attention of Gophers coaches as a tight-end prospect.
That all changed Saturday after his memorable performance at Coach Kill's 7-on-7 Passing Tournament, where Leidner and Lakeville South won eight games to capture the championship.
"He left an impression," Lakeville South coach Larry Thompson said. "I know their quarterback coach and their coaches were watching almost every game we played – and golly, he couldn't have done any better."
Thompson said one game Leidner only threw one incompletion. He was threading the ball all day on all routes.
Impressions were mutual. On Wednesday night, Leidner committed to play for the Gophers.
That commitment came two days after he met with Gophers coach Jerry Kill. The two watched film and had a long conversation. Sunday night, the two spoke late on the phone because Kill was still excited about Saturday's showing.
"He said it was one of the best performances he's seen in his 28 years of coaching," said Leidner, who's also nearly a 4.0 student and also had been pursued by Iowa. "At the rate I'm improving, he thinks I can do great things at the Big Ten level. I'm speechless."
Leidner, who also plays basketball for the Cougars, threw for 2,096 yards and 17 touchdowns, while running for six touchdowns during his junior year.
He wasn't always a quarterback. In sixth grade, his youth team's quarterback got injured. The coaches lined up everyone to see who could throw the farthest.
"I chucked it down the field and that's how I got into the whole quarterback thing," said Leidner, who admitted he wasn't very good until he started hitting the weights in ninth grade.
The first thing people notice about Leidner is the size and strength he brings to the quarterback position.
"Trust me, I don't have to worry too much about getting smoked by linebackers every other play," Leidner said.
Arm strength and mechanics are his strong suits, while footwork, ability to read defenses and football IQ are improving. Leidner credited his wide receivers – Matt Heller, Devon Bzoskie and Ty Powell – who are all looking to put something special together their senior year.
With a leader and hard worker like Leidner at quarterback, the Cougars like their chances in the fall. But Thompson also likes Leidner's chances after high school. With his grade-point average, family background and work ethic to complement his athletic skill set, a bright future potentially awaits.
"That's what's really appealing to college coaches as well," Thompson said. "If he's on your campus, he's going to get good grades and he's going to make good choices."
His first big decision – picking the Gophers – came quickly, but he believes it was the right one, even though everything is happening so fast.
"It's overwhelming, but it's a lot of fun," Leidner said. "I'm just trying to take it all in day by day."
|Matt Arends||Prior Lake||Senior||WR||Princeton||Yes|
|Tavaughn Blair||Hopkins||Senior||SS||Northern Iowa||Yes|
|Cal Bloom||Osseo||Senior||TE||Central Florida||Yes|
|Nick Carr||Totino-Grace||Senior||OL||South Dakota State||Yes|
|Kevin Carroll||Edina||Senior||OL||Northern Iowa||Yes|
|Paddy Clancy||St. Thomas Academy||Senior||DB||Dartmouth||Yes|
|Breion Creer||Benilde-St. Margaret's||Senior||DT||Northern Iowa||Yes|
|Nick Davidson||Eden Prairie||Senior||OT||Stanford||Yes|
|Rob Diane||Robbinsdale Cooper||*RCC Junior||DE||South Dakota State||Yes|
|Cedric Dicke||Cannon Falls||Senior||LB||Minnesota||Yes|
|Karmichael Dunbar||Prior Lake||Senior||DL||Louisianna||Yes|
|Isaac Fruechte||Caledonia||*RCTC Sophomore||WR||Minnesota||Yes|
|Jonathan Harden||Cretin-Derham Hall||Senior||DT||Western Michigan||Yes|
|Isaac Hayes||St. Thomas Academy||Senior||OL/DL||Minnesota||Yes|
|Cody Hazelette||Simley||Senior||LB/TE||Northern Illinois||Yes|
|Kyle Hughes||Minneapolis Washburn||Senior||WR/DB||Eastern Michigan||Yes|
|D.J. Hebert||Osseo||Senior||QB||Northern Iowa||Yes|
|Will Johnson||Osseo||Senior||TE||West Virginia||Yes|
|Zack Johnson||Eastview||Senior||OL||North Dakota State||Yes|
|Paul Kaczor||St. Cloud Tech||Senior||OL||Harvard||Yes|
|Brian Labat||Detroit Lakes||Senior||RB||North Dakota||Yes|
|Andrew Larson||Eden Prairie||Senior||RB||Harvard||Yes|
|Brandon Larson||Bemidji||Senior||LB||North Dakota||Yes|
|Mitch Leidner||Lakeville South||Senior||QB||Minnesota||Yes|
|Nate Meixell||Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial||Senior||LB||South Dakota State||Yes|
|Nate Meyer||Rocori||Senior||QB||South Dakota State||Yes|
|Drake Michaelson||Eden Prairie||Senior||LB||Wofford||Yes|
|Rossevelt Morisset||Thief River Falls||Senior||WR||Southeastern Louisiana||Yes|
|Andy Moritko||Totino-Grace||Senior||DB||South Dakota State||Yes|
|Philip Nelson||Mankato West||Senior||QB||Minnesota||Yes|
|Brett Pierce||Holy Angels||Senior||DL||North Dakota State||Yes|
|Jonah Pirsig||Blue Earth||Senior||OL||Minnesota||Yes|
|Taj Rich||Robbinsdale Cooper||Senior||LB||North Dakota||Yes|
|Zach Riopelle||Warren-Alvarado-Oslo||Senior||LB||North Dakota State||Yes|
|E.J. Welch||Mesabi East||*MRCC Freshman||DL||North Dakota||Yes|
|Evan Williams||DeLaSalle||*IWCC Freshman||RB||Northern Iowa||Yes|
|Carey Woods||Bemidji||Senior||WR||North Dakota State||Yes|