Whether it be excelling at numerous sports or earning a spot at one of the nation’s top universities, senior Justin Leszyski never fails to impress.
Growing up, Leszynski was a multi-sport athlete who found a passion for football starting at age three. From playing football on the weekends with friends in between chores and family dinners, to sitting on the edge of his seat watching various teams kick off on Sunday, the game has always held a special place in his heart.
This year, Leszynski’s athletics schedule and the schedules of all high school sports converged which allowed him to play football for South for the first time.
“I really wanted to try football senior year,” Leszynski said. “I thought it would be fun and a lot of my friends were on the team so I wanted to give it a try. A combination of soccer overlapping with basketball and football along with me not really practicing soccer all that much anymore pushed me to play football instead.”
As Leszynski dove into football he faced many challenges. However, his willingness to put in effort and his familiarity with the sport provided him with an easy transition, he said.
“I’ve always loved the game [of football],” Leszynski said. “I spend 7-and-a-half hours or more every Sunday and all day Saturday watching football. It’s just something I really love and like watching. My friends and I would play on the weekends almost every weekend in the fall and winter, [so] I’ve always loved the game.”
Similarly, Travis Myers, South’s wide receiver coach, said Leszynski’s ability to learn new skills and his experience in other sports helped Leszynski grow as a football player and made him very coachable.
“Just being able to communicate was something that he was really really good at, and he asked a ton of questions,” Myers said. “[Having] never tried something before and to come out senior year after never doing it, being open minded and willing to try things is probably the biggest thing that helped him grow so much.”
Another factor that helped Leszynski improve, according to Myers, was his friendships with some of the players on the team, including senior Alex Kopley. After seeing Leszynski’s potential, Kopley said a few players on the team did their best to assist him so he could reach his full potential.
“Given it was his first year, a lot of the stuff he had to [improve] at was the mental part of the game,” Kopley said. “He was able to go from a great athlete to a great football player, he asked a ton of questions and he really wanted to [improve].”
Along with Leszynski’s impressive ability to pick up football at the high school level, his commitment to Harvard University is another feat. Leszynski said his commitment was possible due to his upbringing and parents’ emphasis on academics, as well as his own desire to excel.
“My parents strongly encouraged me to work hard in school,” Leszynski said. “[And] I had originally decided on going to MIT, yet when I sat down with [my acceptance] and visited the campuses I knew I had to pick Harvard. This choice also marked my decision to continue football.”
As the season went on, Leszynski said he was able to get better every game. After finding success through the season, he decided to reach out to the Harvard football team’s coaching staff after falling in love with the school. Leszynski explained that Harvard’s rigor will not only challenge him but also will welcome him as he finds comfort in the intense academic environment he said.
“When I talked to many alumni and students, I came under the impression that it wasn’t just a hard working school, but a place where many of my peers would share similar interests and social tendencies,” Leszynski said. “They [also] have an infrastructure for producing front office members across the NFL through their Harvard Sports Analytics Club.”
Not only will Leszynski be involved academically at Harvard but he has hopes to continue his football career there as well. After being in contact with one of the coaches, according to Leszynski, he will have a shot at making their team.
“I’m going to have an opportunity to have a spot either trying out as a walk-on in the fall, or going to the summer camp and possibly getting a spot as a recruited player,” Leszynski said, “They’ve given me an opportunity and that’s all I can ask for I have the motivation to keep improving and working on my boy to ensure that I make the most of the opportunity. ”