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Current New York Jet Jim Leonhard (left) and former UW safety Chris Maragos (front right) examine NFL film footage from a game.[/media-credit]

While physical training is essential in preparation for football, the mental aspect of the game is crucial as well. During the season, football players and coaches watch countless hours of film in preparation for the opponent in the next game.

As former UW free safety Chris Maragos prepares for the 2010 NFL Draft, film is an essential part of the process, in addition to long hours of training. After class Tuesday, Maragos met with another former UW safety, Jim Leonhard, who is currently a member of the New York Jets.

As a part of its series focusing on Maragos’ preparation for professional football, The Badger Herald sat in on a film session with Leonhard and Maragos. Afterward, Maragos discussed the importance he sees in learning from someone like Leonhard, a fellow Wisconsin native.

Below is part two in an eight-part series.

Badger Herald: Every offseason since making the switch to safety you’ve worked out with Jim Leonhard. What is it about him that you see as valuable enough to meet with him for a number of hours to go over film?

Chris Maragos: The biggest thing about why I meet up with Jim is his knowledge for the game is at the level where I want to be on. For me, if I want to elevate my game to that level, you’ve got to learn from those that are there right now and from those who do it the right way.

The style of play that he has and the style of play that I have is real similar. So, really, for me to pattern my game after him, that’s really what I want to do.

BH: Do you think because your playing styles are so similar you can learn more from Jim than from someone else who is good, but not the same style of play at your position?

CM: I do, yeah. I really think I do. We were looking at Kerry Rhodes, his teammate, and when I watch Jim do something, I can see myself doing a similar movement or a certain thing like him or getting put in a similar position as Jim would.

But with a guy like Rhodes, who’s a little bit different of an athlete, they use him in different ways and use his body in different ways too. So, I definitely see how Jim does it and I can get a visual picture of how he does it in different situations, and then I can try to do the same thing.

BH: What’s it like to watch Jim break down film of guys like Tom Brady or Randy Moss, who you’ve watched play on Sundays and play in the Super Bowl?

CM: I think it’s real interesting to see, for me, his progression on what he’s looking for or what’s he looking at in certain situations; down and distance, by formation and where the personnel is on the field.

You know, what is he looking at? What is he trying to decode from that offense at that given time? For me, if I can put myself in a similar situation mentally as the process that he does, hopefully that will elevate my game.

BH: In the time that you spent with Jim today, looking at both your film and his film from the past season, what is the single biggest thing that you think you learned from him?

CM: The more and more I sit down with him, the more and more you understand that you’ve got to be on every play. Watching him is funny because I made a comment, I was watching him play and I was like, “man that was a great break.” But he’s like, “No, I was too high, and I had to make it up and make a break.” To me it looked great and probably the same to anyone else, but to him, seeing how he fine tunes and critiques himself — he’s never satisfied.

I’d say that’s the biggest thing that I take from him, that he’s not satisfied. I might think that something’s good or this and that, but he’s always thinking, “I could have done this better or that better on the play.” For me, to look at a guy like him and see how he does things like that, that’s the things I kind of take away from it.

BH: You told Jim during the film session you were having trouble picking up any tendencies on the Patriots’ offense. How much different is that than the offenses you watch in college?

CM: The thing about it in the NFL is there are so many different athletes, and there are so many different options and weapons that you can use. In college, you might have one good tight end and maybe one good receiver; you’re limited on the number of things you can do.

But when you’ve got a team like the Patriots, you’ve got running backs, you’ve got receivers, you’ve got quarterbacks — guys that all can do it. I think that it definitely makes things harder on defenses because they have so many more options with what they can do offensively.

BH: Is it intimidating to watch an offense like that and think that’s what you would have to face at the next level if you find your way onto an NFL roster?

CM: It’s different, you know? And that’s why I sit with Jim and that’s why I want to watch him. When we were watching film, I told him, “I want to watch your film.” I don’t want to watch mine because I want to see how the best do it. I want to see and start mentally preparing for that level of play.

Really, to be honest with you, when you start elevating or raising your mental capacity to that state, then the physical part comes along with it, too. Right now, I’m physically not in the NFL and hopefully one day I can get there. But if I can do it mentally, then when I get there, hopefully physically will come along with it.