Dylan Leonard leading Tech tight ends into 2023

Georgia Tech's tight end Dylan Leonard (center) warms up during a training camp at Georgia Tech’s Rose Bowl Field, Tuesday, August 1, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)


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Georgia Tech's tight end Dylan Leonard (center) warms up during a training camp at Georgia Tech’s Rose Bowl Field, Tuesday, August 1, 2023, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Dylan Leonard has been around longer than most of his Yellow Jacket teammates.

The former Milton High standout arrived at Tech in 2019 and is going through his fifth preseason in the hot and muggy Atlanta summer out on Rose Bowl Field.

“I wouldn’t say it gets easier, I would say you just get tougher,” Leonard said Wednesday after Georgia Tech’s eighth practice of the preseason. “That’s what Tech does to you, it just makes you a tougher human being. Off the field and on the field – I had a parent ask me, ‘With school, does it get easier as you go?’ And I was like, ‘No, it doesn’t get easier, you just get tougher.’ When these young kids come in here they may struggle at first, but it just builds you into a beast of a human being, this place.”

Leonard enrolled at Tech and joined the football program as a walk-on way back when under former coach Geoff Collins. Leonard has endured a lot since then but has hung in there long enough to put himself in position to make an impact both on and off the field.

Now, besides having a personal goal of becoming an all-conference tight end, Leonard said he just wants more victories.

“I just want to win at the end of the day,” Leonard said. “I don’t care much about accolades as long as we win. I’ve been here for four years now and we haven’t done that to the level that we want to. The biggest thing is strictly just winning.

“(Coach Brent) Key has drove that home a lot, that winning is the goal and the only goal. That’s the only thing that matters. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Leonard has impressed the new coaching staff already as well. Earlier this month, Tech offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner lauded the senior for being at the forefront of meeting expectations from the start of the new regime’s arrival.

“Dylan Leonard has been a leader since the day I got here,” he said. “He is everything you want in a teammate and a player with everything he does on a day-to-day basis.”

Leonard is penciled in to be one of Tech’s starting tight ends alongside fellow senior Luke Benson (6-4, 233). That duo combined to make 20 catches for 175 yards in 2022. Benson also spent three seasons at Syracuse where he caught five touchdown passes and totaled 261 receiving yards.

Behind that duo, Tech is relatively thin.

Brett Seither played 27 games for Georgia before putting on rival colors. But Key said Monday that the 6-foot-5, 233-pound Seither is, “limited right now (due to injury), but able to get in on some 7-on-7 reps and individuals.”

The Yellow Jackets also added South Florida transfer Jackson Long to the mix and freshman Joshua Ruder from Loganville High. Billy Ward (Locust Grove) has logged 31 games for the Jackets as a special-teams contributor.

“Feel good about that group, just got to find ways to get them on the field and, it’s like any other position, they’re all battling for playing time,” Faulkner said.

Since Tech football moved away from an option in offense in 2019 it has yet to feature a tight end when it comes to the passing attack. Tyler Davis’ 17 grabs for 148 yards and a score in 2019 remains the recent standard.

Leonard hopes to change that in 2023.

“There’s been talk that they want to get us incorporated. In past years we haven’t been as incorporated as I wanted to be or like we expected,” he said. “But (Faulkner) definitely uses us in some unique ways. He has us all over the field. It gives us more opportunities to make plays 1-on-1 and stuff like that. I’m definitely excited about it.”

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