Leon McFadden walked into fall football camp in 2009 at San Diego State University looking to make an immediate impact as a freshman.
The two-star wide receiver from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. had no idea that by the end of camp, he would be on the other side of the ball: covering wide receivers instead of catching passes from the quarterback.
But the change worked out well for everyone.
In his freshman season at SDSU, McFadden played in 12 games, earning the starting in six on his way to being named to the Mountain West Conference All-Freshman Team by Rivals.com.
Not bad for his first season at a new position, especially at the collegiate level.
From that point forward, he owned the conference, as he was named to the All-MWC First Team each of his next three seasons. In his senior season, he led the team with three interceptions (2 of which were returned for a touchdown), 12 pass breakups and finished fourth on the team with 61 tackles. He was named the team’s most valuable player on his way to leading the Aztecs to a share of the MWC championship.
He was invited to the Senior Bowl, where he turned in one of the best performances throughout the week, allowing him to shoot up draft boards.
His performance prompted ESPN analyst Todd McShay to say, “Countering the best player on offense was a defensive back as the best player on defense. San Diego State’s Leon McFadden stood out. He jumped Tavarres King’s out route and had a nice interception in one-on-ones. He stuck to receivers like glue, was balanced and under control. He didn’t turn and run vertically much, but he has looked sharp defending short-to-intermediate routes on several one-on-one and seven-on-seven reps. He’s not as tall as you’d like (5-9 ¾), has smallish hands (8 5/8) and average arm length (31 ¼), so top-end speed is an important piece of the puzzle in McFadden’s final evaluation. We’re interested to see if he can maintain the standard he set Monday throughout the week.”
He didn’t participate in the actual game because of a groin injury, but most scouts and head coaches had left Mobile, Ala. by that time. Consequently, the injury didn’t hurt his draft status.
A month later, McFadden was in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine.
His 4.54 40-yard dash, 34.5-inch vertical leap and 119-inch broad jump were impressive, but it was his on-field workout that may have solidified his third-round grade. His “quick feet” are some of the best he’s seen in this year’s defensive backs’ class. He showed some of the best hands in the group with the ability to close on receivers and change direction quickly.
With the SDSU Pro Day approaching next month, McFadden will surely look to make another solid impression on head coaches and general managers before April’s NFL Draft.
Another great performance could result in McFadden continuing to climb even further up draft boards.