2023 NFL Draft

Shrine Bowl Interview With Wagner EDGE Titus Leo

It wasn’t until late in his high school career that Wagner College’s Titus Leo considered playing football beyond graduation. He never thought this would lead to a chance to play in the NFL.

“Truthfully, coming out of high school, I had no aspirations of playing collegiate football until like the middle of my senior year when my coaches were like, ‘Hey, coaches are reaching out. Do you want to play any level of collegiate football?” Leo said. “And then I decided to take a shot on it. Went to a few All-Star games out of high school and Wagner College was there. And Coach (Custavious) Patterson offered me on the spot based on how I participated in the All-Star game.”

Like many players receiving Shrine Bowl invites, Leo was a multi-sport athlete in high school, with indoor and outdoor volleyball as well as track and field on his resume. While he trained with the track team, he didn’t take part in run events, preferring to dedicate that time to his offseason football training. During the football season, he was active in all three phases, playing wide receiver, defense, punter and kick returner.

The all-around athlete was recruited as a wide receiver but moved to the other side the ball early in his college career.

“I made the transition my freshman year, actually,” Leo explains. “And that was due to injuries piling up on the defense. They just needed guys to fill in spots and I just wanted to get on the field and play. So I was like, count me in, I’ll be the guy.”

His past work at wide receiver gave him an advantage because he was able to understand the personnel and groupings more easily and what routes might be run based on how the opposing offense lined up. In his freshman year, he scored a touchdown on a 30-yard interception return.

Leo continued to impress throughout his four years at Wagner. After playing linebacker in 2019, he made the move to edge and that paid dividends for his team. Leo’s stat sheet is impressive from the 2022 season: 52 tackles (32 solo) and 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He’s more proud of his performance in 2021, when he won his second consecutive NEC Defensive Player of the Year after logging 71 tackles and seven sacks. He ranked eighth in the nation and first in the NEC for tackles for loss, averaging 1.7 per game.

Lining up on the left (wearing #1) in October 2022, Leo stopped the Long Island University quarterback on his first snap of the game with a sack and forced fumble, recovered by his teammate:

When asked where he sees himself lining up at the Shrine Bowl and beyond, Leo responded with the answer any coach would love.

“Truthfully, I’m there for whatever they ask you to do,” he said. “You know, if I have to put my hand in the dirt and go after the quarterback, I’ll put come after the quarterback…dropping the coverage, I’ll do that.”

Leo carries himself with a quiet confidence. With regard to the draft process, he is not going to spend time working on a faster 40 time and prefers to concentrate on technique. As he elaborated:

“I truthfully believe the 40-yard dash, like a linear speed in football terms, we’re not running straight all the time. We’re turning corners, we taking different angles. In pass rush it’s all about angles, so I’m not really running straight trying to beat the tackle.”

On the question of preferred scheme, he feels his college experience has prepared him well. Having played under three different defensive coordinators and learned three different playbooks, the next learning curve does not intimidate him. Leo stated that he played “basically every scheme you can think of. I played in the 3-3-5. I played in the 4-3, I played in the true 3-4. So I’m comfortable in every formation and scheme.”

In the East West Shrine Bowl game, Leo (wearing #94) showed that he belonged. He was credited with 0.5 sack and a quarterback hurry for the West team. He helped take down the East team quarterback here:

He also showed good awareness and hustle, throwing two blocks for linebacker Shaka Hewyard after an interception. That helped his teammate gain extra yards, although the play was called back due to a holding penalty:

As he prepares for the next level, he is training at the Parisi Speed School with Coach Rich Sadiv alongside fellow pass rusher Andre Carter II. Where or whether Leo will be drafted later this month is not his concern at the moment. He’s focused on controlling what he can control and putting his best foot forward. Hopefully, that will lead to a helmet on gameday next fall.

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