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WATCH & LISTEN: Rochester Football Coach Looks Forward to a Winning Year

Derek Leonard is the football coach for Rochester High School and has won seven state championships in eight years.




“I like to be with kids and be around sports as much as I can and these were the best two ways -  and still be competitive. I love coaching because you’re still competitive, you’re not actually playing but there’s still competitiveness in it.  But just growing up and seeing my dad, that was always fun,” said Leonard. 


After talking to Leonard, it’s apparent that his dad has played a large part in his life and coaching career. 


“I was lucky enough to play for my dad, that’s where my first love of football began. I love playing and that’s how I knew it was what I wanted to do.”


His father is Sacred Heart-Griffin head coach Ken Leonard.


“My inspiration is probably my father, I grew up my whole life around him. I was just around the sport and around him and in the office.”


Ken was not the only reason Derek got into football. 


“I just like being around people. I think I’d be bored sitting in front of a desk. You have social interaction in all jobs with friends and coworkers, but I relate to kids pretty good. I always try to be young at heart and it keeps me young. It keeps me motivated.”


Not everything is easy about coaching. There are many difficulties that come with it.


“The pressure of winning and parent issues. Some places are really good, some places are really bad, you hear horror stories.”


Fourteen years of coaching at Rochester and seven state championships later, there are many memories that Leonard has on the field, but one sticks out among the rest.


“That goal of beating Sacred Heart-Griffin - not so much beating my dad, that had nothing to do with it - but that he is so good and their program is so good and where our program was at compared to where their program was at. That’s probably bigger than any of the state championships we won, winning that game. It had so many levels, so many reasons. As a coach, that was probably my number one highlight.”


With less than a month until the season officially starts, Leonard spoke about what the 2019 Rockets will look like.


“We feel good up front, defense, and offensive lines. We feel good on quarterbacks, we feel good on running backs. Like any year, we have things we need to be sure of and fix up. But we really feel good about some of our strong points.”


A positive outlook for a man who has seen a great deal for success.




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