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Micah Leon's 7-year College Journey Brings Him To Dolphins Mini-camp Micah Leon's 7-year College Journey Brings Him To Dolphins Mini-camp

Micah Leon’s 7-year college journey brings him to Dolphins mini-camp

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Micah Leon watched the last day of the NFL draft at home, his phone nearby.

He was hoping for the best (getting drafted late) and prepared for the worst (no call from any team). He was relieved with something in between.

The Miami Dolphins reached out during the final round, extending Leon an invitation to a two-day rookie mini-camp that starts Friday.

This was what the 24-year-old Leon wanted, a chance to finally show what few outsiders got to see during his seven years — yes, seven — in college as a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina State, UConn and Florida.

Could he really make the pros?

“I feel like I can kind of blow past people’s expectations,” Leon told The Associated Press. “I’m excited for that.”

Calling Leon a long shot would be an understatement. His college career included two mop-up appearances with these stats: completing 12 of 16 passes for 78 yards.

That’s it.

So just getting an NFL tryout was truly a feat — and a testament to what scouts and front office folks see in Leon’s 6-foot-5 frame and clean throwing motion.

“The kid’s got one of the best arms I’ve ever seen,” said Eric Kresser, a high school football coach in Palm Beach County Florida who started working with Leon in 2016. “He’s a prototype.”

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Kresser is convinced Leon is a hidden gem, a former tight end/defensive end who transitioned to a full-time QB as a senior at Boca Raton High in 2016.

“Big-time quarterbacks nowadays, the foundation all starts at a really young age and kind of stacks up,” Kresser said. “Sometimes you can get behind the 8-ball, and it’s really hard to get that big opportunity.

“Micah was just a little late in high school to the recruiting party.”

Kresser still recalls their first meeting. He was coaching future Florida State star Jordan Travis at The Benjamin School when Leon joined them on the field for a workout.

There it all was. Athleticism. Accuracy. Acumen.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of difference, other than Micah’s a lot taller than Jordan,” Kresser said.

Leon’s path from there was much less direct than the one Travis enjoyed in Tallahassee.

Leon spent his first two collegiate years at N.C. State and never threatened Ryan Finley’s starting job. He entered the transfer portal in 2019 and landed at UConn, where he saw an opportunity.

But Leon tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder on the third day of camp, an injury that turned out to be season-ending, and UConn’s 2020 season was wiped out by the pandemic. He thought he would get a chance in 2021, but surgery complications slowed his return.

Leon finally stepped on the field in the regular-season finale against Houston, a college debut memorable for all the wrong reasons. He played when UConn’s starting QB got hurt and, late in a 45-17 loss, a 320-pound defensive lineman landed on Leon’s foot while he was scrambling and dislocated several toes.

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“I’m like, ‘Man, you’ve got to be kidding me,'” Leon said.

It would be another two years before he would get another chance. Following graduation, with one year of football eligibility remaining, Leon started looking for a third college.

When Florida quarterbacks coach Ryan O’Hara called, looking for roster depth in 2022, Leon was ecstatic. After all, he grew up rooting for the Gators and had family ties to the university about four hours north of his hometown.

So Leon passed along some training clips and “they liked it enough to take a shot on me,” he said.

One problem: When Leon began UF’s admission process, he quickly learned he was past the application deadline, so he had to sit out the 2022 season and wait until January to enroll. That also meant he needed an NCAA waiver for a seventh year — which he received, allowing him to enroll days before classes began.

“It just felt nice to finish in a place I really, really wanted to be,” he said.

Still, Leon wasn’t any closer to getting on the field regularly. Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz was the top QB, with Jack Miller and Max Brown also ahead of Leon on the depth chart.

Seven months later, though, Leon was turning heads. Florida coach Billy Napier raised eyebrows in camp when he said: “We are giving him reps for a reason.”

Gators legend Steve Spurrier watched a few practices and was drawn to the big kid with the big arm. So the Hall of Fame coach and player added to the intrigue by proclaiming: “Don’t be surprised if Leon plays some here, real soon.”

“Every time he’s in there, the ball goes up and down the field in a good way,” Spurrier said.

Leon did play, but only in garbage time against McNeese State. He completed 2 of 3 passes for 16 yards. After Mertz’s season-ending shoulder injury in late November, Brown made his first career start against rival Florida State.

With Florida’s season over and his college career finished, Leon headed home and started working with Kresser three days a week and spending more time with renowned trainer Chris Verna, a biomechanics specialist Leon considers “a miracle worker.”

They helped Leon tweak his motion, hone his footwork and prep for Florida’s pro day, where he threw in front of 31 NFL teams. The Dolphins invited Leon to their local pro day and then called again as the draft wound down.

“You can’t hold guys like this down forever,” Kresser said. “He’s got all the tools. When you have all the tools, people don’t really just let you go.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

 

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