As he looked at letters from some of the top schools across the country, Richard Leonard sifted through each one to find the positives and negatives.
Last week while looking at offers from Georgia, South Florida and other top schools, the speedy cornerback from Killian had a gut feeling. One that will not only change his young life, but the direction of a program already on the rise.
``I'm staying home and going to attend FIU,'' said Leonard, who is 5-8 and 160 pounds. ``I love the direction, the coaches, the school and the players who are already there.
``It's a great fit.''
Leonard's commitment is one of the most prestigious the Golden Panthers have received under coach Mario Cristobal, who has gained plenty of momentum the past few months across the state of Florida.
Leonard joins impressive athletes such as local commitments Wade Isaac (DL, 6-2, 255, Norland), Khambrel McGee (CB, 5-9, 170, Northwestern), Sam Miller Jr. (DB, 5-10, 175, LaSalle), Randy Williams (S, 6-1, 195, Miami Springs) and Caleb Vincent (LB, 6-2, 225, Hollywood Hills).
Statewide standouts include Mac Brown (DB, 6-0, 155, St. Petersburg Gibbs), Justin Halley (S, 6-2, 181, Boca Raton), Jake Medlock (QB, 6-3, 220, Neptune Beach Fletcher) and Ocala Trinity Catholic running back Kedric Rhodes, a 5-10, 185-pounder.
``The opportunity to be a part of something that is growing and gaining momentum was too hard to pass up,'' Leonard said. ``I have watched and have been totally impressed with the coaching staff and the way the future is starting to shape up.''
Cristobal has long said that he will build FIU into a program that will not be afraid to go after the best and most talented players in the region and throughout the state.
With the commitment of Medlock, Rhodes, Miller and now Leonard, he is starting to back up that statement.
``You watch FIU play on television and you can see that they are really going about the building process in the right way,'' Leonard said.
``That's what won me over. Actions over just saying you are going to do something.''