Badgers learning from a legend, Leonhard leads UW once again - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badgers learning from a legend, Leonhard leads UW once again

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MADISON, Wis. (WKOW) -- Jim Leonhard came to the University of Wisconsin as a walk-on in 2001 and left four years later as a legend.

An All-American safety for the Badgers, Leonhard went on to a decorated 10-year career in the NFL, competing for six different teams. In 2014, he was a free agent, enjoying his time with family and pondering about what his future held. During his off-year, he spent many days with former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, studying film and brushing up on college schemes.

Even before former defensive backs coach Daronte Jones left for a job with the Miami Dolphins, Leonhard had expressed a desire to coach the Badgers in some shape or form. So when Jones vacated the position in February, hiring Leonhard was a no-brainer. 

News of the hiring traveled fast and fans, players, and staff expressed high hopes of what Leonhard would bring to the Badgers defense, who lost three of their starting four backs to graduation. 

The lone starter in the backfield, junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton, had long known of Leonhard's talents, saying he grew to respect him during his playing days with the New York Jets as they went to back-to-back AFC Championship games. 

"You're talking about players who want to get to the level he was at some point and play as long as he did," Shelton said of his new coach after Thursday's spring practice, "He has the keys [to get to that level] so we just try to listen and soak up all the knowledge we can."

Leonhard joins defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox as in their first stint as coaches for Wisconsin. Wilcox, who previously held the same position with the USC Trojans, speaks highly of Leonhard, who has never coached before this year.

"I think that's totally overrated. The never done it before thing. And it's pretty obvious when you watch him working with the players and hearing him in the meetings because you would think he's been doing it for 20 years."

Leonhard says he has a lot to learn when it comes to the "business of coaching", but he's focused on taking it one step at a time.

"It's been a lot of fun. Just being around the guys coaching, teaching. That's what I want to do. The energy that my guys play with..they want to learn, they want to do it the right way, [and] they want to be really good. "

The Badgers host their Spring Game on Saturday, April 23. Their first game of the 2016-2017 season will be against LSU on September 3 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

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