To say Vonta Leach loves hitting would be an understatement.
Last season, Leach had to replace his helmet after the Thanksgiving night win over the 49ers. Scrapes are typically buffed out after each game but the 260-pound bowling ball actually ripped the paint off the top of his protective shell.
Now that’s a football player.
Leach is part of a dying breed in the NFL. Those players who would have historically been bruising fullbacks gravitate to other positions as the league transitions into more of a pass happy style. Look no further than Leach’s teammate, Ray Lewis, as proof that some of the best in the game need to change their bodies to adapt.
Regardless of whether the philosophy has changed or not, Leach refuses to participate as he makes his presence felt to anyone who doesn’t get out of his way.
Heading into the third week of the season, Leach has caught as many passes as Torrey Smith, and found the end zone for the seventh time in his nine-year career last week. Running with the ball or not, he’s always looking to put someone on their backside.
Even though it didn’t “count,” Leach found the end zone during the preseason as well. During the course of each of his scoring plays, an easy opportunity was presented for him run across the goalline untouched. However, Leach decided to lower his shoulder and run straight through the closest person possible – even if they happened to be standing beyond the goal line.
“I’m a fullback, fullbacks are always looking for people to hit,” Leach said while chuckling.
Inflicting pain may be something Leach takes pride in but there is a method to his madness.
“You just got after somebody and maybe they don’t feel it that play but three or four plays down the road,” he said. “They’ll get out of the way or they’ll be tired when they come try to tackle Ray Rice.”
Leach was the prize of last year’s free agency class and no one was more excited to see him in Baltimore than Rice. Once the news broke of his signing, Rice tweeted, “Let the fun begin.” Ever since then, a bond has been created between the two pro bowlers and their elevated gameplay has been a direct result of their relationship.
Last week, Leach ended the game with more touchdowns than Rice, quite the rare occurrence, and an annoyance for fantasy football players nationwide. When asked if he decided to brag about it to Rice, Leach responded, “I didn’t give him any flak for it. It doesn’t matter if me or [Rice] get’s in the end zone, we’re both happy for each other.”
Rice’s statistics may be take a hit this year, as teams overcommit to him and Leach is given a bigger presence in the Ravens offense. On his touchdown in Philadelphia, Leach had the whole right side of the field to himself once Rice split wide to the left and the Eagles defense took note.
While scoring is fun, Leach’s true love remains hitting people. The fullback is every bit as enthusiastic about clearing a hole for Rice to run through as he is toting the ball himself. Leach is definitely one of the few remaining players in the league that cause defenders to pause and keep their heads on a swivel – because when #44 is on the field, they’re just as likely to receive some punishment as they are to hand any out.