Posted: 9:18 PM Jan 10, 2009
Last Updated: 10:54 PM Jan 10, 2009
Reporter: Kelly Schlicht
Though you can almost blink and miss it, you can't drive past the Village of Tony without noticing the homage paid to its favorite son, Jim Leonhard.
"Everybody's happy, it's like New Years Eve all over again!” says Carma Verdegan, Leonhard’s high school English teacher.
These fans have abandoned their Packers loyalties for a day and are cheering Leonhard on in the NFL playoffs.
“I’m not cheering for the Ravens, I'm cheering for Jimmy," Verdegan proudly proclaims.
It's been a long road for Leonhard: From high school star, to walk-on with the Badgers, to three seasons with the Buffalo Bills—and now this—a starting safety for the Baltimore Ravens, playing for the division title.
“I mean that's the stuff dreams are made of,” says Owen Martin, Leonhard’s school bus driver. “And to see a little kid—I mean, I have 4 of my own—to see what can happen, it just blows your mind. To think this little hick town up in northern Wisconsin....and you can watch him on the TV!"
His old assistant high school coach says Leonhard's small town work ethic has paid off.
"He never took no for an answer, and I mean, that's the bottom line," says Flambeau High School Asst. Football Coach Jim Stewart.
It helped, too, that the support from Jimmy's biggest fans have been there all along.
"I went to high school with jimmy, and he's the best player in the whole world,” says Kim Verdegan, arguably Leonhard’s most die-hard fan. “And he is a hero to me!"
And while the man his teammates call "White Lightning" has struck it big, folks back home in Tony say Jim Leonhard never forgets where he came from.
"He's just a good hometown boy and he loves to come back,” says Stewart. “And he ran the football camp here last year during the summer, and he's just a wonderful young man."
The whole town says no matter if Jim Leonhard and the Ravens win or lose, they're still extremely proud of him.
Posted by Jim and Katie on 1/11/2009