As Patriots coach Mike Locke puts it, the senior fullback is the kind of player you can build a great program around.
Listed at 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, he’s not the biggest or fastest player on the team, but he may be the most dedicated.
“He’s one of those kids who arrives early, stays late and is always looking at what he can do to improve,” Locke said. “He’s the kind you can build a great program around.
“Tanner has been a four-year player and he has gone through the school of hard knocks. He has run the ball well for us at times. He got a little banged up during last season but kept battling. On defense, he’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
Leffew plays the game with passion, one that extends from the football field to the baseball diamond where he was a third baseman and pitcher for the Patriots in the spring.
Sullivan East baseball coach Mike Breuninger calls him a real spark plug who not only comes to each practice but also seems to enjoy practice more than most.
Don’t misinterpret, though: Leffew loves the games as well. There’s nothing like those moments of glory like getting the big strikeout or eluding a defender on the football field.
“It’s always fun when you break a big run down the sideline or get the crowd pumped up,” Leffew said. “But it comes down to doing everything you can to help your team win.”
That’s what separates him from many players. It is about helping the team and, as much as he loves to carry the ball, Leffew also enjoys paving the way for others from the fullback position.
“I like that you can be real aggressive, especially on the kick-out blocks,” he said. “It’s a position that few people take pride in anymore, but I like to do the best I can.”
As a runner, Locke describes him as surprisingly shifty with a good jump cut and low center of gravity.
Leffew is also valuable as a linebacker, whether playing in the middle or outside, and feels that playing defense helps him focus on maintaining a strong attitude.
When Leffew is not playing sports competitively, he enjoys going to the water to fish and swim. His prize catch is a 6-pound largemouth bass reeled in at Boone Lake.
But now Leffew is looking to help the Patriots reel in more wins — and the coaches like the attitude he brings while he’s trying to do that.
“He’s a good teammate who gets along with all the guys.” Breuninger said.
Added Locke: “He’s very coachable and that’s a valuable skill. On defense, he’s good at reading and trusting his keys. He’s probably the most improved player on the team in those areas.”