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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

‘Just keep moving’

Junior+defensive+lineman+DeMarvin+Leal+praying+in+the+end+zone+before+kickoff.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal praying in the end zone before kickoff.

“When I was younger, I always believed I was able to do outstanding things.”
Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is now approaching his junior year with Texas A&M. In just two seasons of collegiate football, the San Antonio native’s beliefs have turned into reality as many mock drafts have him listed as a top-10 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
As the 2021 football season nears its onset, Leal has been named to the Walter Camp Award watch list and the Bednarik Award preseason watch list. Further, the lineman earned a spot on the Athlon Sports Preseason All-America First Team.
Having accrued accolades of this caliber after just two years, Leal is proving his destiny rests firmly in the palms of his own hands.
“It’s a blessing, just being able to be here and representing Texas A&M –– it’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” Leal said. “Just being able to accomplish this is very big for me.”
In the shortened 2020 season, Leal tallied 37 tackles and led the defense with eight quarterback hurries. Add in an interception, four pass deflections and 2.5 sacks, and his talent and versatility becomes evident.
His excellence within the hash marks has always been apparent. Leal began playing football at four years old, and even from his freshman year in high school, Leal was in the varsity rotation, former Judson High School head football coach Sean McAuliffe said. McAuliffe described Leal as “ginormous” when he was a freshman in high school.
“I knew when he was coming to us as an eighth grader that that kid had a chance to be a Power Five defensive end,” McAuliffe said. “He was a three-year starter and the district MVP. Credit to him, he’s been blessed and he’s done a great job working really hard.”
Leal exited high school in 2018 as a five star recruit, ranked 16th in the nation and second among all defensive tackles. A&M was the third school to offer Leal a scholarship, and he committed a year later over many other Power Five universities.
“He was down to Texas, Alabama and A&M. Really, A&M was his choice the whole time,” McAuliffe said. “He ended up taking his trips to Texas and Alabama and he loves him some fighting Texas Aggies I guess. It never swayed him at all.”
Even in A&M’s only defeat of the 2020 season, a 52-24 loss to eventual National Champion Alabama, Leal shined. Leal intercepted the first pass of his career before taking off towards the end zone, getting so close he could “taste” it. After 43 yards, he was eventually brought down at the 17 yard line, but set up a touchdown to tie the game early in its second quarter.
An athlete with talent and versatility of Leal’s level is rare. McAuliffe said coaching a player of that caliber is often a once in a career opportunity.
“I’m just fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to, hopefully, not screw him up too much,” McAuliffe joked.
Leal continued his stellar 2020 campaign and was named the Aggies’ defensive MVP. No matter the stakes, he remained steadfast in building upon the high standards he had set for himself. In the Orange Bowl, A&M’s first New Year’s Six game in eight years, Leal helped in leading the defense by recording seven tackles, tying his career high.
Despite an abundance of confidence in his play and his team, Leal said he still feels nerves before every game simply due to his love for the sport.
“If you don’t have nerves going into a game then I feel like that means you don’t care,” Leal said. “When you play a game that you love, you tend to get a little bit nervous just because you care about it so much.”
Among all the praise the junior has received as of late, he said it inspires confidence in continuing down his path.
“My mom always told me, ‘Always work, keep your head down and just keep moving,’” Leal said.
For many, football is simply a path toward capitalizing on one’s talents or a way to make money or acquire fame. For Leal, it’s much more than a game or a vehicle to wealth. It’s life.

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