by Wade Denniston, USU athletic media relations
LOGAN, Utah - Dallin Leavitt’s journey to Utah State began about 103 miles to the south.
The son of Jared and Tania Leavitt verbally committed to BYU prior to the start of his sophomore year at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore. With his father, a former Cougar himself, sitting right next to him inside then-BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s office, how could he say no?
“My dad had played there and I was in the same room as my dad. I looked over at him and he had tears in his eyes because he was so proud of me and so grateful that I had the opportunity to play at his alma mater,” Leavitt recalled. “I understood where he was coming from and how emotional it was for him, so I committed on the spot.”
After all, what 15-year-old wants to let their father down?
“I stayed with my commitment throughout the whole recruiting process and I never really looked at any other schools to be honest,” Leavitt said. “Oregon was close to home and I was thinking about maybe going there just because it was home and I had a good relationship with that coach. Other than that, it was just BYU through and through.”
Leavitt went on to have an outstanding prep career at Central Catholic HS. He garnered Oregon School Activities Association first-team all-state honors and was tabbed the 6A co-Defensive Player of the Year as he helped the Rams to a 9-3 record and Mt. Hood League championship during his senior season.
His next stop was Provo, where he enrolled at BYU and played in 24 career games, including all 13 contests as a true freshman in 2013.
Leavitt was not happy, though.
“When I got there, things just didn’t work out exactly how I planned – life never does,” Leavitt said. “It was something that I think was too hard for me and maybe I was too immature at the time to handle and understand.”
Leavitt asked for a transfer. Mendenhall obliged, with one condition.
“At first, he said I could go anywhere in the country except for Utah and Utah State,” Leavitt said. “A lot of coaches won’t even release you to teams that they play within four years, which is understandable. He said I could go anywhere I wanted, except for those two schools. The funny thing is those were the two schools that I really wanted to go to. I wanted to stay in-state and I wanted to be close to family that I have here. I also felt like this was the best place for me to meet my wife.”
Knowing what would be best for her son, Leavitt’s mother flew to Utah to discuss the transfer options with Mendenhall.
“Bronco is a very understanding person and he’s very level-headed,” Leavitt said. “He cared about me as an individual, not just a football player. When my mom came down, and she started talking to him, she just said, ‘This is something that I think would be best for my son. I know you have some sons, as well, and I hope you can understand, even though it is in-state and it is someone that you play each other. Understand that we would be very grateful for that.’”
Mendenhall allowed Leavitt to transfer to Utah State, something he will never forget.
“He was very gracious about it and it was really cool of him to do that,” Leavitt said. “I’m grateful for him to allow me to come here. It was a great opportunity.”
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Leavitt redshirted during the 2015 season, but has been a solid contributor on the back end of Utah State’s defense ever since.
As a junior in 2016, Leavitt started all eight games that he played in, recording 57 tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss. He also intercepted a team-best three passes, one of which came against his former team.
Leavitt took care of business in the classroom last year, too, as he earned academic all-Mountain West honors.
“He’s one of the leaders on this team and is a kid who has played a lot of football, and is very well respected,” said Utah State defensive backs coach Julius Brown. “I love him as a competitor, I love him as a kid and I love what he brings to our meeting room. He’s a kid who loves football and any time Dallin Leavitt is not playing football is not a good day. He loves to play and I really appreciate him for it, his guys appreciate him for it and he helps us go.”
Through the first five games of the season, Leavitt, who has aspirations of being named first-team all-Mountain West this year, has recorded 29 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss, and three pass breakups.
“Dallin brings a lot of explosion and passion to our defense,” said junior boundary safety Gaje Ferguson, one of Leavitt’s closest friends on the team. “He prides himself in being a playmaker and game-changer. As a teammate, Dallin doesn’t just encourage you to get better, he makes sure you are doing what it takes to get better, and he’s doing it with you.”
Prior to the start of the 2017 campaign, Leavitt found his name on several preseason lists, including the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List, and was tabbed second-team all-Mountain West by Athlon Sports and third-team all-MW by Phil Steele.
Leavitt is known as being an explosive and dynamic playmaker who plays fast and physical. He also brings a lot of energy to the field, has a very high football IQ and is very good attacking the football and diagnosing plays.
“He is also extremely caring about his teammates,” Brown was quick to add. “They mean a lot to him. I know in our meeting room what those guys mean to him and I really appreciate that about him.”
Leavitt faced his former team last Friday night and helped lead the Aggies to a 40-24 victory over the Cougars. In that game, he intercepted his first pass of the season and notched seven tackles.
“It’s funny because I remember feeling like it was an extra-special game last year,” he said. “It was the first time I had been back to LaVell Edwards Stadium and I had something to prove, and I had a chip on my shoulder. This year, I kind of got that out of my system and I have grown up a lot. To me, it’s not just another game because it is an in-state game and it is a rival, so we wanted to get that win as much, if not more, than every other game on our schedule.”
When Leavitt is not busy with football and schoolwork, he enjoys hanging out with his wife, Josie, a former soccer player at Utah State, and their 9-month-old English mastiff, Lyla.
“I love it here,” Leavitt said. “I am so grateful that I ended up at Utah State and honestly, I never would have met my wife had I gone to Oregon and never would have ended up here. I believe God sets our paths out for a reason and I appreciate His path. His path might’ve been just a little different than mine, though.”
Leavitt, who is an Eagle Scout, is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and is on track to graduate this December.
What does the future hold in store for Leavitt? “I figure I’m going into the real world here in about three months, so I’ve been reading a lot on finance books,” he said. “It’s not the most fun thing, but it’s something I actually enjoy – learning about investing and things like that.”
He also wants a shot at playing at the next level.
“The NFL,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
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