COLUMBIA – Last summer started off normal for Hickman wide receiver and punter Wesley Leftwich. Then, Leftwich traveled to Kansas City in May for the National Underclassmen Football Combine with some teammates. When it came time for him to run the 40-yard dash, everything changed.
At the NFL Combine, former MU wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds. Wesley Leftwich ran it in 4.36.
Hickman (3-4) vs. Fort Zumwalt West (4-3)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Fort Zumwalt East
The time and location of the game has been changed because of Fort Zumwalt West's muddy field conditions. This marks the first game of districts for the Kewpies. They must win two out of three district games to move on to the playoffs.
“At first I didn’t know I did it, then I looked back at the coaches, and they were looking at each other, then staring at the watch, then looking at me, and I asked them what was the big deal, and they showed me the clock, and I didn’t believe it,” he said. “It just started to sink in after that. It was really cool.”
In addition to the 40-yard dash, Leftwich excelled in his vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run and bench press. When the weekend was over, Leftwich walked away with the Combine King award. After the trip, Leftwich was invited to the Top 100 Prospect Camp in Norman, Okla., where he was ranked No. 2 of all the wide receivers.
Since then, Leftwich, 16, estimates he has received more than 100 letters from college coaches that he keeps in an envelope in his kitchen, including one offer from Missouri that he has framed. In addition to Missouri, Leftwich is interested in Kansas, Kansas State, Tennessee, Virginia and Notre Dame. Leftwich was happily surprised to get his first letter of interest, even though it was from Kansas.
“I don’t really like Kansas all that much, but it's another school that you’ve got to keep interest in,” he said. “Maybe I’ll come out to like them.”
While he was never anticipating attention from college football teams before this summer, he said it has been a good experience so far.
“It can get overwhelming sometimes, but it's kind of fun to enjoy because a lot of people don’t get to do this,” Leftwich said. “I’ve just got to come out and be levelheaded, and it's just fun getting all these letters from colleges.”
His parents, Val and Jim Leftwich, both MU graduates, try to keep him grounded.
“We have a goal of keeping him focused with school, and Hickman football too, as well as with all his other stuff going on,” Val Leftwich said. “It’s exciting. We certainly want him to enjoy it all as well, but you’ve got to keep your focus.”
His parents are just as surprised as he is about all of the recent attention he’s received .
“We took him to a few combines and things, and it really just blossomed overnight like poof, and he’s got some status now,” Jim Leftwich said.
Wesley Leftwich hasn’t made a decision on what college he will play at, but he and his parents keep up with recruiting blogs and Web sites and have even bought books on the topic. Right now, his first choice is Missouri.
“Mizzou passes first,” he said. “They pass every play basically, and I know the town too so it's easy to get around, and the players are nice too. ... Columbia’s my hometown, and I’m comfortable here. My family is here and so Mizzou is a good choice.”
Despite being Missouri fans, his parents aren’t pressuring him to make a choice too soon.
“He’s only 16, and he’s a young junior. His birthday’s in May, so he’s even kind of young for his grade, and so it's just awful early to make any kind of decision,” Val Leftwich said. “We try and steer him away from you know, ‘Well I want to play where it’s warm.’ Well no, you’ve got to look at other things besides that.”
Although he eventually has a big decision to make, Wesley Leftwich is focusing on his high school play and is trying not to let the all the attention get to him.
“It just makes you just want to work even harder, and if people say I can play at the next level then I’ve just got to go out there and show them and other people who don’t think I can that I could come out and practice harder,” he said.
Coach Jason Wright avoids talking about college recruitment during the season.
“To be quite honest with you, I don’t really worry about it until the offseason because during the season, I’m so focused on what we have to do to get better as a football team,” Wright said. “Are they going on visits during the season? Yes. I encourage them to do that, but as far as them coming to me and talking about their recruitment, we don’t get into that. After the season’s over, that’s when we start doing what we need to do.”
Wright said this includes preparing game tape, highlight tape, making sure transcripts are ready and talking to recruiters to help “bridge the gap” between the colleges and his players.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Wright said. “He’s got speed, he’s got explosiveness, he’s just got to be more consistent running the ball, catching the ball. What a recruiter will tell me is, they might say, 'Well, his lateral movement’s not that great,' and I can go back and say, ‘Look, this is what you need to work on in the offseason.”
For now, Leftwich is focusing on the remainder of Hickman’s season.
“We would like to have a better record, but I think we’ve been coming out and improving every game," he said. "We’re just trying to start back at 0-0 and get our momentum going."