Balancing football with fatherhood

By Jeffery Armstrong

As the starting middle linebacker for the Morrow Mustangs football team, Calvin Leonard is responsible for making sure everyone is on the right page defensively.

For Leonard, that's not all he's responsible for in his life.

Leonard, a senior, just became a father recently. His newborn son Cameron Leonard was born on Sept. 8.

Leonard didn't expect to be a high school student, football player and a father, but he's learned to handle what could've been a stressful situation.

"I was shocked when my girlfriend said she was pregnant," Leonard said. "But I wasn't upset n she's a good person and we get along well. Plus, my family has supported me n I work in my dad's business on the weekends to help take care of my son."

Leonard said his son's impending birth gave him more focus in his life. He studies harder and works harder on the football field so he can put himself in a position to get to the next level n college, and maybe professional, football.

"I work harder than ever now so I can make it and get a college scholarship," he said.

Leonard said he used to be the type of guy that wasn't always doing the right thing. He credits current Morrow head football coach Dorwyn Lyles (with an assist from defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Marcus Dennard) with turning things around for him.

"Coach Lyles got me headed in the right direction and coach Dennard has been a mentor to me," Leonard said. "Instead of wanting to hang out, all I want to do is be with my son and play football with my teammates."

Lyles believes Leonard will do fine as a high school student-athlete and a father.

"Calvin is a very mature kid and he understands the responsibilities that come with having a child before marriage," said Lyles. "He has good support from his family and he is smart enough to do the right things for his child."

Leonard said his father, stepmother and mother have all been in his corner and have given him advice on being a good father.

"My dad told me to always be there for my son and to make sure i am the best father that i can be," Leonard said. "He told me to groom Cameron to be a step ahead of where i am when he becomes an adult."

Leonard said the hardest thing about being a father of a newborn is the lack of sleep.

"I have to wake up all the time with him; that was pretty shocking," he said. "I love it to death, though."

If Leonard needs some advice from a peer about taking care of a child, he can look up Henry County High football player Lewis McCollum. One thing McCollum, a senior tailback, wasn't prepared for was taking his nearly two-year-old baby for frequent visits to the doctor. He figured he would only have to go the doctor about once a month.

"We end up going around four times a month, if not more," McCollum said. "I stopped counting. You have to have patience when you have a child."

Lyles said that Leonard is being very responsible in his duties as a parent and a student-athlete.

"He's making the best of his situation," said Lyles. "He's not the first kid to go through this and he certainly won't be the last."