Life doesn’t always go according to plan.
No one knows this better than LSU senior wide receiver Quantavius Leslie, who has had to raise his grades and a child while pursuing his collegiate football career.
Coming out of Callaway High School in Hogansville, Georgia, as a four-star prospect, Leslie committed to the West Virginia University. He was listed as the No. 5 receiver in the nation by recruiting service 247sports and was ready to make a name for himself in the NCAA.
Leslie was ready for the next level, but his grades weren’t. This first setback had a silver lining. Hinds Community College in Jackson, Mississippi heavily recruited Leslie, and he took his game and academics there.
“They’re another big time program, even though they’re a junior college,” Leslie said. “After they found out I wasn’t going to make it, I wasn’t going to qualify [for West Virginia], they wanted me to come down for a visit. I went down for a visit, and I liked the offense they were in.”
Leslie excelled on the field and improved his game in junior college. During his two seasons at Hinds, he recorded 1,018 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns and averaged 20.38 yards per catch. Leslie’s performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National Junior College Athletic Association All-State First Team.
His grades also improved. He began to take school more seriously and his scores steadily increased. Southeastern Conference schools like Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee began recruiting him, but in the end, LSU prevailed as Leslie’s top choice.
Leslie was poised to join the Tigers in December 2012 in time for spring practice, but he once again didn’t make the grades necessary to qualify for the transfer to Baton Rouge. Not discouraged, Leslie stuck his head in the books during the spring semester and earned passing grades, which allowed him to join LSU in June 2013 for summer practices.
“When I first got here, the whole team took me under their wing,” Leslie said. “I was an older guy, so they were expecting me to be a leader already when I got here.”
His first season at LSU was one of improvement and learning. Although the stat sheet showed only one reception in 2013, Leslie became more comfortable with the playbook and the coaching staff at LSU. When the season ended, he was ready to keep working to improve his game for next season.
But on Jan. 30, 2014, Leslie encountered his latest hurdle.
Leslie became a father to Quantavius Meshawn Leslie, Jr., who was born more than three months premature with a slew of medical issues.
“John Diarse, Travin [Dural], [receivers coach Adam] Henry, they just constantly told me to keep my head up every day and that everything is going to be better,” Leslie said. “God makes no mistakes. It just motivated me every day.”
As doctors worked and his son battled, Leslie juggled school, practices and weekend drives from LSU to the hospital in Mississippi where his son was receiving medical care. Even with all of this going on, Leslie was determined to stay positive and become the best athlete, student and father he could be.
Quantavius Jr.’s development and health steadily improved. After nearly four months in the hospital, he was released on May 28 with a clean bill of health.
“He’s doing good,” Leslie said. “He’s strong and getting longer. He’s an active baby right now.”
Throughout the whole situation, Leslie was able to make an impression on the practice field and the coaches at LSU. He is listed as a starting receiver on the depth chart this season. Despite his starting position, Leslie remains a humble team player and leader.
“Whatever coach wants my role to be,” Leslie said. “Whatever number he calls, whatever play he calls, I’m just going to be ready.”
Leslie regularly video chats with Quantavius Jr. and proudly shows off pictures of his son to his thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers. Leslie said his son will be healthy enough to watch him play home games at Tiger Stadium, and Quantavius Jr. will watch him take the field against Wisconsin on Aug. 30 on ESPN.
“The situation taught me to take nothing for granted,” Leslie said. “Everything happens for a reason. Even though I went through all that with my son, I still managed to keep my grades up, even throughout the summer. My son is my world. He’s my everything.”
You can reach Michael Haarala on Twitter @haarala_TDR.