Leak learns to fly

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 8:59 p.m.

Think of a word you would never use to describe Chris Leak.

No, no, don’t tell me. Your word was “speedy,” wasn’t it?

If not, I bet I was close.

And yeah, maybe you’re right, at least comparatively, in this world of Vince Youngs, Michael Vicks, and heck, even Tim Tebows.

At the beginning of the year, most might have been inclined to agree with that description of Leak as a runner. That he was tepid, clumsy, maybe even “slow.” They may have seen Leak sliding and ducking in the 2005 Peach Bowl. They may have heard Leak state that he’s not a running back, only to hear Florida coach Urban Meyer counter that his quarterback “will run.”

But wait a minute. I’m looking at recruiting info on Leak, and it says he runs a 4.6 forty-yard-dash. A couple clicks later and … wait a minute! Tebow also runs a 4.6 forty.

It can’t be.

For most of Leak’s career, it wasn’t.

Once Leak became Florida’s starting quarterback, he dropped whatever scrambling speed he had. To protect a depth-thin position, Leak said he was instructed to slide to avoid contact. It might also explain why the guy didn’t take off and fly.

This year, Chris Leak learned how to fly.

A few days ago we described Leak’s run in the SEC Championship Game. It was just eleven yards, but it was eleven yards in a very new way for Leak: with tough, unwavering running. Leak stiff-armed and powered his way through. He simply wasn’t going to be stopped.

But to see how he got there, you have to look back to a pleasant September day in Tuscaloosa, the place where Leak earned his wings and showed something he had never shown before.

On a third-and-short with the Gators down 10-0 just before the half, Leak called a play usually reserved for backup Tebow. Following his lead blocker, Leak slipped throw the line and past first down yardage.

But then something strange happened: Leak just kept going. And going. And {insert Energizer Bunny drum here}.

We suddenly saw the 4.6 Leak as he flat-out booked it for forty-five yards. It would be the longest run from scrimmage the Gators would have all season. Tebow got the formality of running it in for the score, but hordes of boo-ers were silenced as Leak sped past linebackers and even defensive backs.

The Gators went into the half with a three point deficit instead of ten points, and would later take control of the game.

Leak didn’t let the run change him, but as the season progressed we saw a quarterback who was more comfortable running when the play broke down. We saw a quarterback who was able to power through the Arkansas defense for a score.

The only thing we didn’t see was a quarterback sliding short. That was the old Chris Leak, and this is the new one.

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