Leneghan ready to shoulder the load for Prep

Anthony Leneghan (45) will be a leader for the Hawks, who are trying to win back-to-back state championships. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Anthony Leneghan isn’t picky.

He’ll play anywhere.

Leneghan is going into his senior year at St. Joe’s Prep. And he’s been a key player on the school’s elite football team since he was a sophomore.

But he was never concerned about what role he had.

When he broke into the rotation in 10th grade, the Hawks needed a tight end, so the Lexington Park native was more than willing to learn the position.

Last year, the team needed a defensive end, so he happily jumped over to the defensive side.

In both roles, he excelled. And he did it with a huge smile on his face.

“I just wanted to play and help the team,” Leneghan said. “Last year was fun because I was on the field all the time. But I liked tight end, too. I was just happy to get out there.”

Playing as a sophomore is tough at any school, but it’s even tougher to get in the Hawks’ rotation because there are so many great players on the squad.

And their team success proves that.

The Hawks have advanced to three straight state championship, winning two of them. Prep has also dominated Catholic League play and beat up on great teams across the country during the preseason. The Hawks are coming off an undefeated season that ended with a win in Hershey in December that gave them a state championship

This year, the team has once again loaded up with tough games, including tilts against Marietta in Georgia, St. John’s of Washington D.C., and IMG Academy from Florida.

Couple those games with the best the Catholic League has to offer, and then a chance to make the state playoffs and the Hawks have a challenging season ready to begin.

Leneghan knows it will be hard, but it’s something he is looking forward to.

“I love playing for Prep because every game is tough,” Leneghan said. “The nonleague games are against great teams. They feel like big games. Every game, every week.

“And the Catholic League is really tough. And every game, people want to beat Prep. Everyone looks forward to playing us. They’re good teams, but they play their best against us. That makes us stay sharp and keeps us ready.”

Leneghan knows he’ll be ready by opening day. But he’s been taking the bulk of the offseason getting healthy.

Last year, he played through shoulder injuries. A few times, his shoulders would be sore and pop out of the joint. It wasn’t serious damage, but every hit was sore. To get better, he had a pair of offseason shoulder surgeries, one on each arm.

He was idle from a lot of the training, but he stayed in shape while trying to get better and stronger. He will be cleared by the start of the season, and he can already see a huge difference from last year.

“It’s just something I was born with, I had to get it fixed,” Leneghan said. “It wasn’t too serious at all, I just needed to get better. I had one surgery, then got better for six weeks and then had the other one. They both feel a lot better. It was just loose joints and I had to have it fixed. It feels a lot better.

“I stayed strong, I stayed working out, I just couldn’t do some of the things. I know I’m going to be cleared for the season and I feel great. I am rested and ready to go.”

Leneghan better be ready, because this year he isn’t just playing his position. This year, he has to be the leader of the team. And he’s more than ready.

Prep has a new coach. Gabe Infante left to become an assistant coach at Temple University and Ryan grad Tim Roken is now the head man at Prep. Leneghan is ready to be the man to help the younger guys, including his younger brother, Brendan, a cornerback on the team.

He knows the role of being a leader, especially on a team like Prep, is an important one. And he has no doubt he’s going to excel in the role.

“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” Leneghan said. “My dad, he’s a football coach and he’s helped me prepare for this. I know how important good leaders are, I’ve always known that. And I’ve been around this team and learned from great leaders. I know how important it is, and I know what I need to do to be a good leader.”

He also knows what he has to do to play at the next level.

Leneghan has the ability to play college football. And he has the brains to go anywhere he wants. He’s doing the college tour, and he’s eyeing Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown as his top choices.

He’s done camps this summer and hopes to pick a school this year.

“I want a great balance of football and school,” said Leneghan, who is leaning toward economics or business as a major. “Ivy schools are great because it gives you a great opportunity. You get great internships because of the connections you make and the education is great, plus it’s good football.”

He compares those schools to his high school.

According to Leneghan, playing football at Prep means everything. But it also means a lot of work.

“It’s a big sacrifice to play football here,” Leneghan said. “We spend a lot of time working to get better. It’s not easy. But we expect success in football and in school, so we put in the work.

“Playing football for Prep is the best. It means a lot to all of us. We work really hard, and because of that, our goal is always to win the championship. It’s tough, but that’s always our goal.”