With College GameDay making its first visit to the Duke University campus, Blue Devil head coach Mike Elko and quarterback Riley Leonard were interviewed on Friday’s live edition of the Pat …
With College GameDay making its first visit to the Duke University campus, Blue Devil head coach Mike Elko and quarterback Riley Leonard were interviewed on Friday’s live edition of the Pat McAfee Show ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
As McAfee wrapped up his interview with the Fairhope alum, he asked Leonard about his sweatshirt from Duke Children’s Hospital. After the quarterback explained the team’s relationship with the hospital, McAfee pledged a $100,000 donation in Leonard’s named if the Blue Devils beat the Irish.
“People that are really important on this campus, Duke Children’s Hospital,” Leonard said. “Coach Elko’s wife, Miss Michelle, takes us over there so we were able to go this week and meet those kids. Our strength coach, Coach (Jeremy) Jacobs, his son Fitz, his life was saved by Duke Children’s Hospital so always try to shout them out and show our support.”
“Alright, if you guys win tomorrow, we’ll donate $100,000 to the children’s hospital in your name,” McAfee said as he shook hands with Leonard. “We appreciate the hell out of you.”
It was quite a way to end the interview that started with the viral homework assignment after Duke’s upset of Clemson, which he did actually get an extension on. They touched on the Blue Devils’ successes in all the athletic arenas to make Duke an “Everything School,” Leonard’s relationship with former Blue Devil quarterback Daniel Jones and of course, his time at Fairhope High School.
Leonard recounted his recruiting journey started with him wanting to play basketball at the next level. He said after his high school coaches, as well as quarterbacks coach David Morris, got his name out more, the Duke offer was one Leonard couldn’t refuse.
“After my junior year, my plan was to go play college basketball. That’s what I wanted to do my whole life, that’s kind of what everyone knew me as back home,” Leonard said. “When Duke offers a scholarship, you don’t turn it down.”
The quarterback wasn’t the only one on the Blue Devils’ roster with a similar story but he said that helps give the whole squad an edge.
“I think it’s a man’s game and it’s a team game. I think it takes everyone on the field to do a perfect job on every single play in order to succeed,” Leonard said. “That’s what I love about this game and that’s what I love about this team, we’re not these five-star guys who are going to be bigger, faster and taller than everyone. But we have football intelligence, we’re going to play the game the right way to win and we’re going to outwork everyone in the summer.”
Their work this past summer has led to Duke hosting College GameDay for the first time and while Leonard said he and the team will certainly try to stop and smell the flowers, they also understand there is another task at hand.
“It's important to take it in because this is what we’ve dreamed about our entire lives. When we have this atmosphere and attention around us, it’s important to appreciate it. I don’t want this time to pass by and me look back and think I was so focused and drilled in on just the game all throughout the week,” Leonard said. “I think now that we have this opportunity, we’re not going to take it for granted. But, at the same time, we have to lock in so with all this attention and everything going on around us, it’s super important — and Coach Elko does a great job of keeping us down to Earth.”
The Duke Blue Devils and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are set for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday night on ESPN.