I didn't really know where I was supposed to put this.
BY M.A. MEHTA
NEW YORK -- Brian Leonard tossed horse shoes with his buddies, strolled quietly down the street of his parent's house in upstate New York, wondering when and where his lifelong dream would begin.
He was happy, tense, excited and nervous.
"He went out of the house and walked up and down the road to get his thoughts together and relax," said Leonard's father, Mark, last night.
Leonard returned to a house packed with 30 or 40 friends and family members before the St. Louis Rams grabbed him in the second round at No. 52 overall.
The place erupted.
Leonard's champagne-soaked celebration was officially under way.
"It's a real good fit," said Leonard above the din in Gouverneur, N.Y. "I wanted to go to a team that would utilize my skills right, and I think they are going to do that."
The 6-1, 238-pound Leonard isn't a threat to steal the starting tailback spot away from budding superstar Steven Jackson, who emerged as one of the game's most versatile weapons out of the backfield. Jackson, a four-year pro, posted 2,334 total yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Leonard, the fifth running back taken in the draft, will be a key blocking and pass-catching threat. The Rutgers grad shed some pounds, impressed the Rams brass and ultimately landed a pretty sweet gig even though he won't be asked to carry the ball 15 times a game.
Leonard, 23, said he spoke with Rams head coach Scott Linehan, who assured him that he would be used in a variety of ways.
"They're going to have me do a little bit of everything, so I'm excited," said Leonard, who was the third-highest player drafted in Rutgers history, after Marco Battaglia, the 39th pick in 1996, and Frank Burns, the 19th pick in 1949. "I can see us in a two-back set. I can see us in a one-back set. I got to go down there to do it in front of them now."
Leonard, the Scarlet Knights' all-time leader in receptions (207) and touchdowns (45), had an inkling all along that he would land in St. Louis or Philadelphia.
"I had a gut feeling it was either St. Louis or Philadelphia," Leonard said. "When the Philadelphia pick came up, I got real nervous. Then, when the St. Louis pick came up, I got real nervous. I really didn't know. I could have slipped to the third round or I could have gone Sunday."
Leonard opened plenty of eyes at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, showing off his versatility as a runner, blocker and pass-catcher. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times.
He'll need that muscle to open up holes for Jackson and the high-flying St. Louis offense that includes quarterback Marc Bulger and veteran wide receivers Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce. While the Rams aren't quite the "Greatest Show on Turf" anymore, they're still pretty explosive. The Rams finished sixth in the NFL in total offense (360.4 yards per game) and 10th in scoring (23 ppg).
"The St. Louis Rams are very fortunate to have a young man of Brian Leonard's caliber," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "I think he is going to be an absolutely fabulous pro and maybe even a better player in the NFL than he was in college. I look forward to watching him on Sundays."
Leonard admitted he couldn't wait to start the next phase of his career.
But for now...
"I'm going to sleep great," he said, laughing. "I've been having crazy dreams two nights in a row. This is going to be a total relief off my shoulders. I can relax and have a great time with my friends and celebrate."