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Leonard Gordon: Fifth-year builds relationships with teammates

| Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leonard Gordon passed up a chance to achieve the dream of most Southern football players by bypassing the Southeastern Conference to flock North to Notre Dame.

The fifth-year senior from Clarksville, Tenn., chose the Irish over Vanderbilt and LSU, and he hasn’t looked back.

“I definitely made the right decision,” he said.

For the 5-foot-11, 189-pound safety who dons the No. 24, the Notre Dame football team reflects what he considers the defining characteristic of the University as a whole: a vibrant community atmosphere defined by strong relationships.

“My favorite part of Notre Dame is the people and the relationships that I’ve built,” he said. “Everyone from classmates to professors to teammates to coaches.”

That attitude extends into what he loves about being on the football team. At Notre Dame, he said, the coaches and players have a true community, which is what drew him to South Bend over Baton Rouge and Nashville in the first place.

At other schools, he said, the football teams often broke up into small groups and players rarely spent time with teammates outside of their small social circle. To Gordon, that simply isn’t the case here at Notre Dame.

“I can hang with any of the guys on the team,” Gordon said. “I obviously hang out with the defensive backs the most, but I can really hang with any of the guys on the team.”

The former Dillon Hall resident has been around football his entire life, he said, and the team atmosphere has always been very central to his football experience, which is one of the reasons why he loves Notre Dame so much. He said there is a true team atmosphere here both on and off the field, which means a lot to him.

Gordon’s favorite football memory is of the UCLA-Notre Dame game in 2006 when Brady Quinn threw a 45-yard pass to Jeff Samardzija with less than a minute left in the game to cap a come-from-behind victory. Though he was redshirted that year, Gordon said it was an unbelievable experience during his first year on campus.

“As a freshman, that really stands out in my mind,” he said. “The Stadium was so loud.”

Gordon began seeing action on special teams during his second year of eligibility and earned increased game repetitions as the years progressed, as well as seeing some action as a safety last year.

Gordon says that he has done a lot of maturing from the time he entered as a freshman to now. Coming in as a freshman, he was not as mature as he needed to be — but that’s no longer the case.

“I’ve really become a man here,” he said.

Although he may have done some of this “growing up” at other programs, Gordon believes that Notre Dame was the best place for him to learn to become an adult.

Though the community aspect of Notre Dame and the football team was enticing to Gordon, the academics of the University were also extremely attractive. He is both a political science and preprofessional studies major and after graduation, plans on attending Baylor University in Texas to attend physical therapy school through the Army-Baylor doctoral program. After graduation from this program, he will serve in the United States Army as a physical therapist.

Vanderbilt had the academics, and LSU had the high-caliber football — and they both play in the famed SEC — but when looking back, the product of the South is glad he didn’t attend either of those schools.

“You can’t get better than this, athletically or academically,” he said. “There’s nothing like playing football at Notre Dame.”