TyGee Leach, defensive back from Georgia State University and Lehigh University, talks on how he was inspired to play football as a child and where he is today as he declared for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Leach started showing interest in the sport after wanting to follow the footsteps of his older brother.
“It was when I was seven,” said Leach. “It was my brother’s first year playing football. He dove right into tackle football, but I couldn’t join because it was too late for me to register. That initial year of watching my brother play is what sparked my interest in football. By the time I was eight, it was my first year playing football, and I jumped straight into tackle.”
Little did Leach realize, his first day was about to become unexpectedly “interesting”, all thanks to the world of football.
“The first day of pads, the first day of hitting, I remember I ended up getting a concussion,” said Leach. “I got flown out in a helicopter to the hospital on my first day of pads and playing football. So, interesting start to the journey, but it’s kinda what made me fall in love with the game.”
Leach’s approach to high school was also different as he also wanted to be a part of the basketball scene as well.
“I remember my freshman year, I wasn’t fully on varsity,” said Leach. “I got into one game my freshman year, and it was kind of nerve-racking because obviously, my freshman year I was really skinny and smaller than everybody. It was scary but it was cool. It was like, ‘Dang, this is what high school football feels like?’ Definitely, I had no impact on the game at all, but it was cool to get in there. At that time, I was still stuck trying to be a basketball star, so training for football wasn’t at the top of my mind.”
His inclination toward football intensified during his sophomore year when he dedicated himself to the sport, earning a spot on the varsity team as a starter.
“I became a starter for varsity, but I had a season-ending injury,” shared Leach. “I tore my UCL in my elbow, so after that happened, it was like a moment for me, thinking, ‘I need to start taking football more seriously. I’m too small.’ So, I started gaining weight, getting stronger to play at the varsity level.”
Leach reminisced about a standout high school game, highlighting a memorable moment from his final season.
“I was committed already my senior year, but I was having a pretty good senior season,” expressed Leach. “But I remember the one game, I had a teammate committed to Clemson and another committed to Delaware. So, both their coaches were there at our game watching us play. We were playing a prep school in New Jersey, and one of their players was John Metchie, who’s on the Texans right now. They had a couple of other stars on the team, but that was kind of a huge game for us. I remember the whole game, knowing there were coaches in the stands.”
Detailing the steps in his commitment journey, Leach provides insight into the thought process that guided his decision-making, blending passion, reflection, and the excitement of embarking on the next phase of his athletic journey.
“I remember I had the Lehigh offer my junior year,” said Leach. “I had three offers my junior year. Lehigh was showing love the entire time, and they stayed committed to me. So, I think July going into my senior season, I committed to them. During my senior year, I was talking to a bunch of other schools, but I was big on loyalty, so I decided to stick with Lehigh.”
As college football began, he knew this was:
“It definitely is a big jump,” described Leach. “Like, alright, this is college football. Not everybody gets to this level, especially when you’re 18 to 23 years old. It’s kinda like that boy-to-man transition, but it definitely was cool.”
“The Rivalry,” a game Lehigh has annually with Lafayette, marked Leach’s favorite moment playing college football.
“Playing our rival Lafayette, Lehigh-Lafayette, I think is the most played rival game in college football, so the atmosphere in that is crazy every year,” said Leach. “We won it my junior year; that’s probably my favorite moment.”
He stood among the athletes who outlined how COVID altered the course of his football journey.
“COVID was terrible,” said Leach. “It started with my freshman spring. It was almost spring break; we got the call like we weren’t coming back to school, so I didn’t get to do spring ball my freshman year. Coming back that fall, I remember there were a bunch of restrictions, and we kept getting COVID tests and all our shots. We thought on the FCS level we were going to play a season that fall, and the season got canceled. So that was a life-changing moment for a lot of people because, like I said, I’ve been playing since I was eight, and that was the first fall I didn’t get to play football, so it felt as if something was taken away from me. It was hard having to stick to training. Nothing was guaranteed during COVID.”
He described the college transferring feeling from a player’s perspective.
“It was different,” expressed Leach. “Usually, as a freshman, you have no leverage; you’re a high schooler. When you’re a grad transfer or even like a transfer mid-way through your college career, it’s a different ball game. You kind of have some leverage because you have experience under your belt, and you have already experienced college. So the pitches from the coaches cannot be the same because we know what they are trying to feed us, so you can’t really sell that experience.”
He continued to describe the transfer process.
“You’re coming in to take somebody’s spot,” stated Leach. “Or at least compete for a spot, so coming in, they know you’re coming in for business, and my approach was a business approach as well. I was coming in to play.”
As he prepares for the draft, he says the feeling is like:
“Getting ready for the draft is a cool experience,” said Leach. “Not everybody gets to have this experience. It’s like I’m about to have a trial to change my life. I only have one shot at it, so it’s kind of like you really have to take it as a business approach. When you’re training for the draft, you have to keep it in the back of your mind, ‘I only have one shot at this. I can’t take a day off.’ It’s serious, and you have to be disciplined. Everything you went through for four years plays into effect now.”
In the future, using his platform, he would like to create a mentorship for the youth community back home in Pennsylvania. Mentors that influenced his life and football career included his dad, older brothers, cousins, as well as his DB coach from high school, and lastly, his college position coaches.