QB recruit has solid credentials
Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 1:52 a.m.
If there is one applicant who ought to breeze through the admissions process at the University of Florida this year, it's Chris Leak.
An honor student at Independence High in Charlotte, N.C., the 17-year-old senior has just ended four fabled years as the Patriots' golden-armed quarterback. He holds the national record for touchdown passes in high school - 185 - and is regarded as the country's No. 1 high school football prospect.
During halftime of the nationally televised U.S. Army All-American Bowl - a high-school all-star game - on Jan. 5, Leak thrilled the Gator Nation by announcing his intention to sign with UF.
With his pinpoint passes and 3.6 overall grade-point average, Leak seems a sure bet for a UF scholarship. His senior year grade-point average, even after a grueling 18-game football season and all college-curriculum courses, is 4.0.
"It has great academics and I know I'd get a good education," Leak, the youngest of five children, said of his selection of UF. "And it's a great place to excel in athletics."
His father, Curtis, said UF's academic support was "one of the biggest selling points" in the decision.
"They were very clear about the support system, and the people they have who can help student-athletes are very impressive," said Curtis Leak, who visited UF after his son had narrowed his college choices down.
"We wanted to make sure he had those opportunities," he said. "Regardless of what he does with football, we want Chris to graduate."
UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said, "I think way more often than not, the academic reputation of this institution helps us in our recruiting."
Chris Leak said he hasn't settled on a major yet, but is leaning toward sociology. He also said that at this stage, he is looking on UF as a four-year commitment and hasn't really thought about the possibility of leaving early to join the National Football League.
"Getting my degree is the first thing I want to do," Leak said. "That's my main priority."
He has committed to a university where roughly half the student-athletes may not have gotten in based on academic credentials alone - in part because UF is one of the 10 most difficult public universities in the nation in which to get in.
Ranked against all public schools in the American Association of Universities in the percentage of the student body graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class, UF comes in eighth, with 66 percent - just below the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and just above University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That's reflected in the average academic qualifications for the 2002 freshman class - a 3.81 grade-point average and a 1,231 SAT.
With a 3.6 and a test score below 1,000, Leak's numbers are below average. But, in recent years, UF has been looking harder at other things.
After Gov. Jeb Bush banned race-based preferences at Florida's public universities, UF added an essay to its admissions process in an effort to take a more "holistic" look at applicants. It also began giving applicants credit for such things as being the first in their family to attend college or for overcoming economic and other hardships.
Applicants also get credit for "leadership," such as serving as student body president.
Under those guidelines, Leak might not have been a shoo-in at UF without his athletic skills.
Both his parents have college degrees. The family is not economically deprived; his father owns a seal-coating business and his mother is an accountant. Football has been Leak's primary extracurricular activity.
But Leak is not "a dumb tackle," said Pete Kritzer, his guidance counselor at Independence High.
"That stereotype is out the window with Chris. He's not a Harvard-type student, but he's very solid . . . I think (UF is) going to find him one of the super kids to deal with."
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