Player Spotlight: Leon Friend

Leon Friend

By Craig Robbins

August 20, 2013 (Los Angeles, CA) — Webster’s meaning of the word franchise:  a special privilege granted to an individual or group; the right to be and exercise the powers of a corporation. The defending national champions (Inglewood Blackhawks) are privileged to have one of semi-pro’s most dominating defensive players ever. Often referred to as the “franchise 3.0,” Leon Friend has nearly been his own brand on the football field, pestering opposing offenses his entire career.

Friend is entering his 10th and final year in semi-pro football, and his tenure began after a stellar stint at Pierce College, where he earned league co-defensive player of the year honors as a defensive back. Friend entered the league in 2003 with the Orange County Makos and has been displaying uncanny performances with the Inglewood Blackhawks, but the bulk of his stellar career was with the world renowned Southern California Steelers. In 2004, Friend lead the Steelers to the second of a back-to- back SWFL championship. Always being his team’s vocal an emotional leader, Friend, ironically, helped propel the Steelers’ brand to minor league football prominence.

After the 2010 season, following an unfortunate early exit in the LCFL playoffs, Friend took the semi-pro scene by storm and signed with the vaunted Inglewood Blackhawks. “‘Baka (Steelers’ owner Shabaka Smith) was about to close up shop. T-Reid wanted me and a few other cats,” Friend said explaining his move. Smith decided not to shut down operation of the Southern California Steelers, but Friend had already given Tony Reid (Blackhawks owner) his word.  Honesty and being a man of his word seems to be foreign in semi-pro, so one can understand Friend’s perspective on things.

As Laker great Kobe Bryant refers to himself as “Vino,” a fine wine that gets better with age, Friend has sipped from an apparent fountain of youth the last two seasons, reeking havoc at the linebacker position, with the Blackhawks.  His 2012 season alone is worthy enough for hall-of-fame recognition: he was the league’s defensive player of the year and team’s Most Valuable Player recipient. In the LCFL championship, Friend tallied 3 sack, 4 tackles for loss, 7 solo tackles, one which included the game-winning stop on a two-point conversion attempt, which made the Blackhawks the kings of the LCFL in 2012.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the 2012 national championship game vs the California Raiders, Friend earned MVP honors by totaling 5 tackles, 2 pass break-ups, 1 interception, 1 blocked punt, 1 fumble recovery, and scoring a defensive touchdown — the makings of a season for most but a game for Friend.

With stellar performances by Friend on a weekly basis, football will definitely miss his presence on Saturdays. “With my work schedule as it is, I’m going to miss games this year.  And, I’m getting my son ready to play. 11 season is long enough,” Friend said.

The Watts, CA native is set on defending his team’s title, and will open up the LCFL regular season against a hungry Los Angeles Falcons team this Saturday. The Blackhawks are on an unprecedented 43 game winning streak and plan on adding to that total one game at a time.

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