Travion Leonard Finds Success After Massive Weight Loss


Steve Brown – Exploring Lincoln/Michael Hayes – The Ram Leonard, pictured left at Lee Academy and right at Fordham, has lost about 100 llbs. since arriving on campus.


Steve Brown – Exploring Lincoln/Michael Hayes – The Ram Leonard, pictured left at Lee Academy and right at Fordham, has lost about 100 llbs. since arriving on campus.
Steve Brown – Exploring Lincoln/Michael Hayes – The Ram Leonard, pictured left at Lee Academy and right at Fordham, has lost about 100 llbs. since arriving on campus.

When freshman forward Travion Leonard was being recruited last season from Lee Academy in Maine, he may have scared away some colleges with his size. It was never that he was too short to be a threat at the forward position; rather, he was just too big. After all, he boasted quite a large waistband, weighing in at 350 pounds. Since committing to Fordham, however, Leonard has brought his weight down to 265.

It has been a long road for Leonard, who is averaging 6.6 points per game to go along with four rebounds, to complete his dramatic makeover.

“I had offers coming out [from colleges], but they wanted me to get down,” Leonard said. “At the time it was hard because I really didn’t know how to.”

After some schools started to back away from Leonard when it appeared his weight would be a hindrance, the Raleigh, N.C. native decided to make a change.

“I just said I was going to do it,” Leonard said. “I promised everybody back home that I would give myself the opportunity to be a good basketball player here.”

Although Leonard’s will was enough to get him working, he still needed to follow an incredibly strict diet for several months to give himself that opportunity.

“It was basically just wake up, get a light breakfast like fruit or a granola bar with a glass of two percent milk, go to class, go to workouts, lift, run and do individual workouts,” Leonard said. “Then, when everyone else was done, I’d go back, get on the treadmill, throw it on the 13 percent incline and just walk and walk until I got a nice sweat going. Then, at the end of the day, I’d get in the pool, do a pool workout and then eat again.”

A promise that Leonard made to head coach Tom Pecora kept him motivated during the tough days.

“When I committed, I promised him and [associate head coach David] Duke that I would get down,” Leonard said. “Not letting him down and making sure he knew that I was becoming a man and that I was going to own to what I said [was important]. I just basically had to do it.”

It seems as though Pecora has been satisfied with the way Leonard kept his word.

“His commitment and what he’s done to get himself in a position to play makes him a force out there,” Pecora said.

By keeping his promise, Leonard has transformed into a different player, and seen benefits on the court.

“I’m able to attack the rim a lot harder now because I have more lift,” Leonard said. Being able to jump up, standing straight and snag the ball out of the air [has helped me rebound].”

Strong willpower and a great work ethic can only keep someone sane on a diet for so long. Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that there is always one food that will keep you up at night. For the not-as-big man, it is a Southern classic: fried chicken.

In order to get rid of some of his poor eating habits and to curb his fried chicken cravings, Leonard has developed some new appreciations for foods which he had never had before going on the diet.

“I love salmon now,” Leonard said. “That’s one of the good pieces of protein that I can get in my body and is actually tasty.”

It is a good thing for Fordham that Leonard discovered salmon and all of the other techniques he has used to basically lose the weight of an entire person, as he has been a vital part of the team this season. His role in the team has increased throughout the year, especially with senior forward Chris Gaston’s recurring knee problems.

“It’s given me the opportunity to be the kind of player that I need to be for the program,” Leonard said.

Although Pecora used Leonard in short spurts at the the beginning of the season as his body got used to the changes, the forward has played as many as 33 minutes. Gaston’s injury has also given sophomore Ryan Canty and freshman Ryan Rhoomes the chance to get some solid minutes. Having two high-energy big men coming off the bench only give Leonard more motivation.

“It makes me have to play hard because if I don’t, I would be on the sideline watching,” Leonard said. “I know if I’m lazy, Canty is flying over my back to get tip dunks.”

All of the hard work from Leonard paid off in a big way on Jan. 23, when the forward posted a career-high 13 points in a 66-63 win over Rhode Island and hit the winning free throw. As Leonard stood at the charity stripe with the game tied in the waning moments of the second half, gleams of sweat dripped from his face, the same way the sweat rolled off his body as he underwent his incredible transformation.

“Of course I was nervous,” Leonard said. “I knew I had to hit it. When it left my fingers I knew it was good. It felt great.”