Interview with Leo Chenal

We really appreciate Leo Chenal chatting with us twelve days before the biggest game of his life!

AUTO TRANSCRIPT (95% accurate)

Bob: Well, hello, everybody. My name is Bob Rombach. I’m the founder of the WE ARE Network. And we have something very, very special to bring you today. As you probably know, we have a guy from Grantsburg who is, in a couple of weeks, going to play in the Super Bowl, and he’s kind enough here on a Tuesday afternoon to join us and just chat a little bit about what’s been going on in his life and what’s happening in a couple of weeks. So. Leo Chenal, thank you so much for joining me here today. I am super excited to get to chat with you.

Leo: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited. Absolutely.

Bob: Well, first things first. The most important thing is how’s Randi doing?

Leo: Yeah, there we go! She’s about 30, you know, about 30 weeks, 31 weeks this Thursday. So she’s doing good, man. She’s coming along.

Bob: That’s awesome. So your life, man, it’s just all sorts of things happening, so. Very cool. So, seriously, how does it even feel? This is kind of the requisite question for everybody going to the Super Bowl, I think. But how does it feel to be heading to the Super Bowl as a rookie on the Chiefs?

Leo: It’s definitely surreal. You know, just coming in and being at my first year, man, it’s I was so shocked when Harrison made that field goal. I was in shock. I didn’t like I was I was starting to tear up a little bit. And then I was like kind of freaking out and I still had to run down on kickoff. I’m just like, my head’s going like, Okay, I just got to tackle this guy. Somebody just got to get him down. And we’re going, But, you know, just sitting back and thinking about it, it’s it’s crazy. It’s like the, you know, the top of the top of football and definitely trying to take it in every moment, you know?

Bob: Yeah. I can’t even imagine. So what’s it been like from Sunday after the win on what is it? Is it just been a whirlwind for you or is it business as usual or how has it been?

Leo: Um, you know, it is a little different. We had to come in for a team meeting. We actually. Yeah, we actually get today and tomorrow off, you know, optional lift. But like, yesterday, we came in for a team meeting, just explaining, you know, everything that’s going on. And, you know, there’s a lot of moving parts to it and a lot of stuff like that changes like we’ve got to be aware of. But, you know, just starting, you know, was it Thursday? You know, it’s just business as usual. You know, just get all the details down, get all the stress out of the way of the added stuff and, you know, business as usual.

Bob: Do you know when you guys are heading down?

Leo: Yes, Sunday.

Bob: You are going Sunday. Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. So let’s talk a little bit about your year here as a rookie linebacker drafted in the third round, coming in, making a whole bunch of starts, playing a ton on special teams, what have you. What has your role been here for the Chiefs as as a rookie?

Leo: Um, you know, it’s it’s not necessarily as big as I wanted it to be. You know, I definitely think it’s a process. And, you know, I can’t really expect the world, you know, my first year definitely do your best. But, you know, special teams is a huge deal, too. And I’ve been a contributor there and just trying to do my best. It’s been a while since I just played all special teams like my freshman year of college, you know, just special teams. And, you know, it’s just getting down every detail, doing the best at the best I can do. What I’m asked to do is kind of like the role I’m in right now, you know, And, you know, around 25% of the defensive snaps and then playing, you know, almost all of the special team snaps. Again, I’m just trying to perfect what I’m asked to do.

Bob: That’s awesome. So you kind of touched on this, but what what have the expectations what were your expectations going into the NFL and have they been met or what has been different about what you did, you did expect on draft day and beyond?

Leo: You know, I definitely didn’t have anything down 100% like what to expect. You know, I definitely was hoping to get more opportunity at like the off ball like Buck or Mike linebacker. But, you know, it just it just didn’t work out that way. And you know, there’s always room for that in the future. But, you know, right now we’re headed to a Super Bowl. And, you know, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t trade that for anything, you know?

Bob: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And you have been a contributor. I mean, special teams. Any time you want to find Leo, you just look around the ball. He’s either making the tackle or right around it, throwing a key block on a kick return. You’ve been all over the place and it’s been really fun to watch you. And I don’t know if people understand how big of a deal special teams are and that you were out there for. Basically everything is is pretty pretty awesome. So good for you and and 25% of the defensive snaps I mean your rookie class for the chiefs has been phenomenal like incredibly important point to the run here obviously Mahomes and Travis Kelce get all the headlines but dang your defense really stepped up in that rookie class. A big part of it.

Leo: Sure. Oh, man. Yeah. I can’t emphasize that enough. You know, you got Josh Williams, Jaylen Watson, Trent McDuffie, George KARLAFTIS, you know those guys on defense. Brian Cook, You know, you got all those guys on defense and seeing like the performance, you know, they’ve put up all they’ve done. Pacheco On offense. Skye Yeah. You know, it’s crazy. You don’t you don’t see that often. You know, like we got almost half our special teams Guys alone are rookies, and you really don’t see that often with, with starters on defense offense, especially that team going to a Super Bowl. It’s it’s pretty rare kind of a testament to our team and stuff like that. But you know, those guys working hard, you know, working their butts off, get everything down the playbook, down. It’s a long season and just keeping that energy high no matter what, you know?

Bob: Yeah. Yeah. It is a testament to to your team. Is it Veach Beeches last name. He he hit basically on nine out of ten. I mean, any football fan would be very excited if their team hit nine out of ten on the rookie class. So and that’s important because obviously, you know, there’s a salary, salary cap type of thing and you’ve got to have young guys come in and and contribute. So very cool. Let’s switch just a little bit. Well, actually, let’s stay on the defense really quick. I have a question about who kind of sets the tone on the defensive side of the ball. I’m just interested.

Leo: Who sets the tone.

Bob: I mean, leadership style and that kind of thing.

Leo: Yeah. I mean, I would like by energy wise, like, you know, I’m always going to be up there with energy, like I’m bringing energy no matter what, whether I’m the main contributor or not. But, you know, you got Willie Gay’s like a huge, huge energy guy and a lot of people respect him, the energy he brings. But, you know, in terms of just like all around like leader, I think Nick Bolton and you can tell him a little bias here with just.

Bob: Picking a lot of linebackers.

Leo: But, you know, Nick Bolton, he’s he’s leading the defense. He’s the quarterback of the defense, second year guy who, you know, you got free agents coming in. It’s like you tell him he’s a second year guy and they’re like, what? No way. Like, you think he’s a veteran in the room. You know, he knows the defense inside and out. He’s making all the plays, doing everything right. So he’s definitely someone I look up to.

Bob: That’s awesome. The linebacker room sticking together. Love it. Let’s talk a little bit about where you came from and kind of your journey along the way to get to the NFL. Started here in Grants. Berg in high school became a superstar high school player, offensive defensive player of the year in Wisconsin, Gatorade player of the Year. So can you kind of take us from your high school days here in Greensburg through Wisconsin and into the NFL up to kind of draft day? What’s that journey been like for you?

Leo: So, you know, just think thinking back on it, it’s just like being in the moment. Like I never once thought about, like, oh, man, like I always dreamed about it, but never thought like, okay, this is actually real. Like, it’s like a goofy, like, awkward, like freshman coming in and, like, meeting all these new dudes, like the show’s family, you know, kind of bringing me and Jon in under, under the wing and stuff like that. And just like a whole community, you know, just kind of welcoming, welcoming us with open arms. But yeah, just going through it. And, you know, it was a great time to be able to play with my brothers especially. But yeah, it’s time definitely flew by and, you know, I definitely yeah, I didn’t get didn’t get really a serious look at colleges until we actually started going to camps and Coach Hale started reaching out and helping us out like that. But yeah, it’s definitely took it one day at a time and it’s definitely flown by.

Bob: Yeah, that that’s awesome. I mean, I remember you went to the, the Badgers camp and, and basically did they offer you within a week or something or how did that go.

Leo: I want to thank, yeah. We went to the Badgers camp and then I think it was like they said we want to see like after like three games of your junior year, then we’ll decide. And I think it was after the Webster game of my junior year, you know, they called me up and they offered me That’s awesome.

Bob: And it took you like 45 minutes to accept.

Leo: Just about. And there’s kind of like kind of like a pride thing or it’s like, okay, I want to be the first commit to. So I literally like, I was going to commit, but my family was like, okay, maybe, maybe you should wait up a little bit. So I agreed. I waited and then I committed.

Bob: Wow. Where to be, where to play them, where to string them along, you know? Oh, yeah. Fantastic career at Wisconsin. Finishing all American by the end of your career. Left early as a junior and and I think you had like two years eligibility left with the COVID year but decided to take the jump into the pros. You were selected in the the third round. Everybody made mistakes. I’m not taking you. Including the two teams that are represented in this area. They both took linebackers ahead. Yeah. And you just when you play them, you must make them pay. So what was it like there? Go ahead.

Leo: The two teams that are sitting home right now, I just got to make fun of it.

Bob: You should. So do you have a chip on your shoulder for being selected in the third round? I saw more than one mock draft having you as a first round talent. Does that bother you still or are you happy with with how everything is transpired or.

Leo: All you know, right after draft you asked me, You know, it definitely would bother me. You know, obviously, every guy wants to go as high as possible. The first round of your hometown team, stuff like that. And it definitely it definitely hurt me. But, you know, looking back on it, you know, there’s no place I’d rather be just, you know, my teammates, coaches like the area I live in, like everything down to it. The success we have, like, it’s all all of it together. Like, like I don’t have any regrets. And I’m I’m really blessed to be able to be in the position I am.

Bob: Yeah, that’s awesome. And we’re all glad to hear that, that it kind of worked out the way it should. And I mean, you’re going to a Super Bowl, so it’s going to be tough to complain, I suppose. But I have a question. Kind of football adjacent, NFL adjacent because I like to collect memorabilia, I like to collect cards, My kids like to collect cards. So we bought a few of your cards, of course. And I have a couple here and see if I can. You can’t really see, but these are a couple of signature cards. And my question to you is, how does that whole system work? Do they just kind of sit you down at a at a card table and put a whole bunch of cards and have you sign stuff or I’m just really curious how that that whole thing works.

Leo: Yeah. So basically your agency is working for you. You know, they’re trying to reach out any opportunity you can get. And, you know, these trading card companies reach out and they ask me like, Hey, do you want to accept this deal with this trading card company? They’ll send you this many cards for this, this much per card. So basically, they just send it to me in Arizona while I was training. And, you know, I would I would just sit there and sign them like you signed like the stickers like individually, like anywhere from 25 to 50 stickers on a page so that you’re like, boom, boom, boom. I’d sit there for probably sometimes 5 hours straight, just, you know, trying to knock them out and stuff. But yeah, it’s it was definitely a little grind there, but it’s pretty smooth, like the way they make it. It’s just like a bunch of stickers on a page and you just knock it out like that and put it in the box and send it right back.

Bob: So that’s smooth. Yeah. This this one here is a sticker. This one here is right on the card. I would imagine it’s a similar process of just taking a stack of cards and and signing it unless there is a I don’t know, maybe it’s just a really good sticker. So how if people want to get signed stuff signed from you, memorabilia or whatnot, what’s are you able to do that? And if you can, what’s like the process of doing something like that?

Leo: Um, I don’t I don’t really know the best best way. Like I’ll, I’ll eventually like, you know, in, in grants like have some sort of signing or something, you know, for the, for the community or some sort of giveback or something like that. I don’t have anything planned out right now like specifically, but you know, they’ll definitely be something in the future.

Bob: Perfect. That and we will let people know when when that comes around. Let’s see. Let’s go back to the chiefs here. Travis Kelce seems like a hilarious guy. And I’m sure as a linebacker, you must go against him every day in practice. You must have gotten to know him pretty well this season. So do you have any Travis Kelce stories that you can tell that you can tell us that that might give us an insight into him a little bit more.

Leo: Um, I’m trying to think, but he is. He is such a funny dude. Like. Like just. You bring it up, like, you know, his name. It just makes me smile because, like, you know, you got a lot of guys that, like, you know, in the league, they don’t, they don’t show up for OTAs and stuff. But, you know he’s he’s out in OTAs. The optional OTAs bring in like high energy all the time just screaming like let’s go, let’s go, baby. It’s like he brings the energy every single day. He’s hilarious. Huge Brownie.

Bob: Brownie. Gosh, that was epic.

Leo: I hate that word up. Like, it was just it made me laugh so bad, but it was pretty funny. But no, he’s just someone like you got to look up to. Just like, as a player, Like he’s such a smooth route runner, you know, like that. Like at the top of the route, boom, he’s gone. And then on top of that, his personality, it’s it’s pretty cool, you know. And you got you’re out here in like, it’s not as cold as up there right now, but like, you’re out here in like 20 degree weather practicing. And, you know, he’s one of those guys like, no sleeves, just like shorts on. And so he’s, you know, along with me, I have to represent the state still. But but he’s he’s definitely someone I look up to as well. He’s he’s a.

Bob: Character. That’s awesome. Yeah. I don’t know. He’s he’s always been one of my favorites since he got in the league. He just is so good. I mean, he’s the best tight end. I don’t think anybody can argue that. And just his personality on top of it. His podcast with his brother is just phenomenal. So anyway, this isn’t supposed to be the Travis Kelce admiration show. So let’s move on. I actually reached out to a few people and asked them. I said I told him I’d be interviewing you and said, if you could ask him anything, what would you like to ask him? So do you mind if I read a few a few things here?

Leo: Oh, yeah. Let’s do it.

Bob: All right, let’s go with this. All right. My buddy Dan wants to know the best play you made against Patrick Mahomes in practice.

Leo: Man, Against Patrick. Yeah. We don’t get a lot of, like, like, one on one type stuff. It’s like, during this. Like, but like I do like scout team, like as a rookie, I do scout team and stuff and, you know, you got to like, pull up whenever, like, you know, you could catch the ball and stuff. But, you know, I’ve definitely had like a few of those where being an interception and stuff, but they don’t let you, they don’t let you do that as like a scout team guy. But so I can’t really, oh, I would have done this. I can’t really brag about any of that.

Bob: All right, fair enough. Yeah. We’ll ask you in every year once you get just full first team defense and and see how that goes. All right. A guy named Gabe would like to know, was there a moment in your life that made you think I could make football? My career?

Leo: Who’s that? A guy named Gabe. Well.

Bob: You might know him as Gary or.

Leo: Oh.

Bob: Yeah.

Leo: Oh, man. I wouldn’t I wouldn’t say really until after my sophomore year at college. You know, just after that Minnesota game, really, I kind of just like let loose and, you know, really like, you know, got comfortable and, you know, going to the off season my junior year, I really thought like, you know what, like I could do this. And just talking over with my now wife, you know, is a possibility and yeah, I didn’t I didn’t really like truly believe in myself until after that.

Bob: Wow, that’s amazing. You you made it on scholarship to a Division one power five school, and you still weren’t completely sure of yourself. I mean, that’s actually kind of a good message, because a lot of kids probably don’t know if they’re good enough or anything, So that’s cool. I remember interviewing well, I didn’t interview you. I had 3/6 graders at the time interview you and John and Luke Anderson. Do you remember that at all?

Leo: Oh, yeah, I remember that.

Bob: Okay. And I remember one of the kids asked you if you’re going to go play in the I think it was Alex actually asked you if you’re going to go play in the NFL and you were like, you were a junior at the time and you’re like, I’m just focused on high school football right now. So but it was we were all believing in you at that point. So it’s nice that you caught up to everybody else.

Leo: Yeah. Yeah, exactly like I was. I was definitely not thinking too much.

Bob: That’s cool.

Leo: That’s awesome. Yeah. Time is flown by.

Bob: Yeah. Yeah. Todd says the first thing he wants to say is. Leo, we in luck, are so happy for you, and he wishes you luck in two weeks. I’m not sure if that’s a pun or not, but I know how much you like puns, so we’ll say. Yeah, that was a pun. He also wants to ask you, for young athletes, what can you say helped you in becoming the student community member and athlete that you are today? Tough question.

Leo: Yeah. Geez, put me on the spot. No, I mean, I would I would say just have like a strong moral standing, you know, like for me, it was in the faith, you know, let let that guide you throughout your life. If you have like if I ever had a question in life, you know, I go back to my faith, like, what would Jesus do, really? And, you know, I had a lot of good mentors in my life, you know, my mom, my older brothers, my dad. So I definitely just like, lean on that for whenever, whenever I have questions and stuff. And always, always looking for people to learn from, you know, in different areas of your life, always ask questions because, you know, we’re never going to know it all and always take notes of it because it’s easy to forget, especially playing football. You get hit in the head. We got something on the spot. But no, I always ask questions. My my main takeaway.

Bob: That’s that is a great, great takeaway. Asking questions. Mentorship is huge. Who who is kind of mentor to you in at the Chiefs?

Leo: Oh man. I would I would probably say Nick Bolton. You know, he’s only a year older than me, really closer than that if you go by days and stuff like that. But he’s such a mature dude. Yeah, I’ve just learned a lot from him. He’s. He’s really smart, really like, wise in that area already for how young he is, for sure. Yeah.

Bob: Great. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right, next one. All right. Coach Hale wants to know who you formed a bond with on the team. You can’t say Nick Bolton. No, I mean, that could be it.

Leo: And now I can’t say my brother either. Come on. Like I used to. Like Johnson. Oh, yeah. John was easy. As your next move, I formed a bond with. Oh, man. I mean, all the linebackers. Really. I really like Willie. He’s a really funny dude. You know, like I said earlier, like, he’s always bringing the energy, the juice, always joking around with him. So, yeah, I mean, I have a close bond with everybody, but, you know, Willie’s always bringing that energy.

Bob: All right, awesome. Let’s see. Like Stacey wants to know. That’s Gary’s wife wants to know what is something unique that nobody would expect about the Nflx.

Leo: Oh, man. I think I told Coach Taylor this already. I think he had a presentation, but I think. It’s a lot more. It’s a lot more, I want to say laid back, but I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s definitely not as much of a like a huge grind and taxing as you would think it is like compared to like college and stuff, especially with like the NFLPA. Like, I learned that like the first thing that NFL’s like the players argued for, like when it was first founded was just being the right to, like, wash their laundry, you know, something like that. But, you know, it’s come a long way. We’re definitely like looked out for in terms of practices and stuff. We’re only allowed, I think, like 14 to 16 padded practices in the season. Stuff like that. And like all the all the things that the NFLPA offers is like, is crazy. All the doors that it’s open for me. But yeah, it’s definitely, you know, we’re treated like coworkers, we’re treated like adults and professionals. You know, obviously you respect coaches, what they say and but it’s definitely more of like a coworker type vibe. I feel like.

Bob: Wow, yeah, that is kind of surprising, especially. I mean, most of us obviously don’t get to that level and we’re used to the coach player dynamic and you kind of it’s kind of more like in some ways military, you know, hierarchy and all that kind of stuff. So that’s an interesting insight. Are there any kind of perks that surprised you? This is my question. I like perks that, you know, like free candy bars or something. I don’t know, like stuff like that. Anything like that surprise you?

Leo: I mean, just in terms of like, like, I want to say, supplements and stuff. In college, they had like a rule they couldn’t offer, like caffeine or creatine. So, I mean, I’ve definitely kind of like, taken advantage of like grabbing like a few like Celsius cases and stuff. I kind of got bigger than Celsius now and taking the creatine they supply there. And then this summer is like, you know, like they’re hooking up with like free Taylor Swift, like tickets and stuff like that, which is, it’s kind of cool going my wife I hope. But you know there’s there’s like stuff all over the place like here and there. It’s pretty cool. Yeah.

Bob: That’s awesome. All right, cool, cool. Let’s see. Next one. So Adam Hefty is a is the biggest Badgers fan that I know and he wants to know how playing for Wisconsin helped you prepare for the NFL.

Leo: Yeah, I mean, Wisconsin, like they’re saying is smart, tough and dependable. So I definitely like they engraved it in me like my position coach at Wisconsin coach boasted he was he was kind of like the military thing, like military style coaching you’re talking about. So he definitely, like, built that toughness in us. And, you know, early meetings, long meetings, extra time on the field, extra time studying, just going back and forth like that. And, you know, that’s I kind of attribute a lot of it to him for sure.

Bob: Awesome. And what is it with. Linebackers from Wisconsin. I mean, they’re all in the NFL, it seems like. And you’re playing against one, right, for the Super Bowl, isn’t there?

Leo: Edwards didn’t.

Bob: Play. Yeah.

Leo: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, as a defense, Wisconsin is always up there and then, you know, linebackers are kind of the quarterbacks of the defense and, you know, kind of you know, you look at like, okay, who’s causing the success? You know, it’s everyone. But, you know, linebackers have been a part of it and you know TJ Edwards man I was I was angry for him like he went undrafted. And just looking at his film and his success, I was like I was like I was baffled how he went undrafted and especially the success he’s having now in the league, it’s kind of showing, Hey, why did you guys do that?

Bob: Right? Another undrafted guy I know you’re good friends with, Jack Sanborn had an awesome season with the Bears, so. It doesn’t always matter where you’re taken in the draft. As long as you get a chance. You have a chance.

Leo: Yeah, for sure. And you know, Sam Warren’s another. Another one of those cases, like you said, like, dude, like, how do you miss that? You know, And he had, like, I think like his first game starting or second game starting. He had like a two sack game and he’s just he just, like, took off right from there. Became a, you know, a town legend.

Bob: Yeah. Yeah. That was fun to see. It was fun to see him see him excel. A couple left. I reached out to your brother, John. He. He said he wasn’t great about the questions, but he just wants to know about the surreal ness of everything that’s that’s surrounding this. Can you speak on kind of the whirlwind, the surreal ness, or is it kind of set in now?

Leo: It’s how about the Super Bowl or.

Bob: Yeah, I think let’s talk about the Super Bowl. Yeah.

Leo: I mean, yeah, all of all of it is kind of crazy. You know, it’s I still feel like I’m in kind of like shock mode right now. It’s like, it’s like the weeks. There’s so many weeks, Like it’s counting preseason. Like, how many games is that? It’s like around like 23 games. 22 games, like, yeah, you know, it’s just like kind of like rolling into the next week, but at the same time, like, you’ve got to step back and realize like, dude, this is the opportunity. Like, you know, you’ve been waiting your whole life and it’s coming my first year, which is even more crazy, more blessed even for that. So yeah, I’m just, I’m just trying to take it all in right now and then get to the point where I can treat it like, okay, this is just another, you know, business week as usual and just try to get locked in.

Bob: Well, I just I think about what you have been going through and every everybody, whether you’re a pro football player or just anybody in life, you have things happen. But like all these things seem like positives to me. But you get drafted. You get drafted. You move. You have a move in there. You’ve got to move to Kansas City. You’ve got all the things that come as a rookie. Your wife gets pregnant and you’re going to the Super Bowl. I mean, all of this in less than a calendar year. It’s insane. It’s nuts. Well, how much is going on for you?

Leo: Oh, man, it is. It is really crazy that rookie year especially. And then on top of that, you know, getting married and then.

Bob: Oh, yeah, getting married. Yeah.

Leo: Yeah. Like a lot of that. Like, like basically nonstop a whole year. Rookie year is definitely, definitely a tough thing, you know, even though all those things are positive things like it definitely like builds up and you’re like, you know, after season it’s just like, okay, I’m going to go take a break.

Bob: Now a little bit. Yeah. Imagine how easy next year is going to be for you.

Leo: All right now.

Bob: Yeah, well, just kidding, because you’re going to have a newborn. So welcome to the party, pal.

Leo: Exactly. Yeah.

Bob: All right. Last thing I wanted to ask you, I kind of want to just give you the floor. Is there any message that you want to give, give grants? Berg And really, this area, we’re all so excited for you. We’re all your biggest fans. And, you know, this is an opportunity, I mean. To say something to to these people who are who are rooting for you. I can’t wait to watch you on on Super Bowl Sunday. Anything you want to say?

Leo: I just want to say thank you so much for the support. Like I see everything. I see it all. And, you know, I just like I sometimes get overwhelmed with like the social media and seeing everything, but, like, it means so much just being able to see that from the community and like, all, like everybody coming together and all the positive, all the positive news or all the positive stuff I’m seeing, it really means a lot. I can’t ask for any more. It’s pretty special.

Bob: Yeah, we do live in a special place. All this entire area. We root for one another. We’re rivals, of course. But you know, when one does well, feels like we all do well. So. So, yeah, we’re just. We’re very proud of you, Leo. You’ve handled yourself so well. This interview was awesome. Thanks for taking the time for. For us up here. And, man, we wish you the very best this Sunday. And and make sure you send Randy our love and make sure you give a little pat to the little one for us.

Leo: Yeah, Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much. It’s been good.

Bob: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Leo. And we’ll talk to you soon.