VALDOSTA -- When Lowndes public address announcer Hubby Brooks comes over the loudspeaker today against Douglass to announce Devaris Leonard has just gained yards or scored a touchdown, two sets of expressions cross the faces of fans.
Those Vikings fans who are unfamiliar with Lowndes football have a curious look, thinking that they just saw Leonard playing defense.
The fans who know the junior's role on the Vikings have a look of glee and cheer for the player known as The Bus as he rumbles for another Vikings' first down.
While Leonard isn't the only Viking to play on both sides of the ball, he brings a little more to the table, both physically and through his enthusiasm.
Leonard, all 5-foot-8, 240 pounds of him, will start at defensive tackle and come in at fullback when the Vikings go to their "Plowboy" offense, when Lowndes takes on Douglass in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs today.
Leonard also unofficially has the Vikings' biggest smile and brings a large amount of enthusiasm to the field.
"He's a good football player," Lowndes coach Randy McPherson said. "He's been blessed with a lot of speed and size, and more than that the kid loves to play the game. I mean loves it.
"You don't have to worry about the kind of effort you're going to get from him. He's going to go hard every play."
When lined up behind the quarterback, Leonard looks like he will just lumber across the line of scrimmage, a la former Chicago Bears cult hero William "the Fridge" Perry.
Leonard, however, uses his 4.7 second speed in the 40-yard dash to defy his 240-plus pound frame and run with the ball or block up field. On 26 carries, Leonard has rumbled for 193 yards and punched in four touchdowns.
Getting Leonard the ball early keeps the big guy happy.
"Sometimes it happens that way," McPherson said. "We get him a carry, he gives a good run, all of a sudden he comes to life on defense, too."
As a matter of fact, that's how Leonard came to be on the offensive side of the ball -- he got the ball early in the Lowndes system.
On the Vikings' ninth grade team, Leonard was constantly running the ball as the team's fullback. During his time at fullback, Leonard discovered what would be his new position and his legacy.
When he was on the seventh grade football team in 2001, Coach Gardner observed his play, and gave birth to the nickname that has stuck four years later.
"In seventh grade, he made me a fullback," Leonard said. "And said, 'I'm going to give you the Bus, because when the boys go on your back, you've got to take them to school."
Since then, Leonard has donned the No. 36 corresponding with the NFL's Jerome Bettis, also nicknamed "The Bus," and has taken a leadership role, providing inspiration to his teammates.
"He's one that brings a lot of enthusiasm to the defensive unit," said Hiram Johnson, coach of the interior defensive linemen. "Just like any other kid on the defensive side of the ball, and to this ball club, they hate to lose and he hates to lose as much as anyone does.
"As a result of that, he's constantly trying to pump the other kids up to do the best they can in their position."
During his ninth grade season, Leonard was told that he would be switching to defense.
"In ninth grade, I played fullback, and the whole time they were telling me, 'Bus, when you get up here on varsity you ain't going to play fullback anymore. You're going straight to the D line and you're going to Coach J (Johnson) in the bone yard (defensive line)."
During his sophomore season, and his first on defense, Leonard started all of Lowndes' 15 wins at defensive tackle.
The Bus' first year on varsity is also the first year that McPherson implemented the "Plowboy" running attack. The offensive set puts two large backs behind the line of scrimmage, the 2005 version featuring Leonard and Stanley Dickson, and uses that size to plow ahead for crucial yardage.
"I told Coach Mac I still wanted to play a little fullback in the big package or something," Leonard said. "We came up with the Plowboy.
"And in the Valdosta game, you all saw that I've still got it."
Leonard opened the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Lowndes 28-0 victory against the Wildcats on Oct. 7.
Despite his involvement on offense, Leonard's primary role is defense, where he is a one-man wrecking crew.
From his defensive tackle position, the Bus is No. 2 on the Vikings with 43 total tackles and 34 solo tackles.
"He has a lot of aggressiveness and a lot of desire to win," Johnson said. "Plus, he has a lot of quickness about himself on the defensive line of scrimmage, on getting off blocks and getting to the ballcarrier."
Leonard uses his size and 330-plus pound bench press strength to help lead a defensive line that has allowed only one team in 10 games to score more than a touchdown against Lowndes.
Despite playing both ways, Leonard doesn't tire and relishes in the fact that he influences offense and defense.
"I'm doing it for the team, the team sacrifices," Leonard said. "I have to suck it up and go."
Fatigue is also knocked out of the Bus' head by the love of each position.
When he's on offense, his eyes get big as he blasts through the offensive line, craving yardage and touchdowns.
And on defense is where Leonard gets his real jollies.
"I'm going to have to go with defense because I love to hit," Leonard said. "I get fired up."
Leonard teams with Asmar Ceasar and Stan Summers to form the interior line of the Vikings that has helped to contain opponents to 47.6 rushing yards per game.
"I think those three, that I coach, the inside nose guard and two tackles, they kind of feed off each other," Johnson said. "That was kind of a learning experience at the beginning of the season when Ceasar wasn't there and at times we didn't have Stan Summers, but once we got all three together, things began to click with those three.
"They know each other and know what each other can do and cannot do. That makes a big difference. They comprise good chemistry."
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