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Alex Belongia of Rice Lake selected to receive 2021 Jim Leonhard Award

11/17/2021, 2:00pm CST
By Travis Wilson

Wisconsin Sports Network and are proud to announce Rice Lake's Alex Belongia as the 2021 recipient of the Jim Leonhard Award as the most outstanding senior defensive back in Wisconsin, part of the WSN Senior Football Awards.

Alex Belongia of Rice Lake is one of the top two-way players in the state, earning First Team All-Conference as a receiver and defensive back, with Offensive Player of the Year honors in the Big Rivers. Belongia was recently named a WFCA Large School All-State selection on both offense and defense.

He could have easily been a finalist at either spot, but as the state leader in interceptions with eight, we've got him on defense. He also has 85 tackles for the Warriors, who are into the Division 3 state championship.

"I immediately thought about Coach Bowerman's comment about Jim Leonhard when he was playing at Flambeau high school: 'On one play he was making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, so we would try to throw where he wouldn't be but somehow he was there picking it off!' That basically describes how opposing coaches have talked to us about Al."

Finalists for the award were Belongia, Logan Engeseth of DeForest, Daniel Martens of Franklin, Cole Toennies of Middleton, and Cole Trimborn of Nicolet.

Past winners of the award include Marquette's Michael Trotter (2009), Appleton North's Joe Makeever (2010), Edgar's Kyle Schueller (2011), Whitefish Bay's Jackson Weber (2012), Appleton North's Connor Rolain (2013), Kimberly's Bret Verstegen (2014), Marquette's Michael Crowley (2015), Monona Grove's Jarrett Maier (2016), Waunakee's Lucas Statz (2017), La Crosse Central's David Hayden (2018), Milwaukee Riverside's Amaun Williams (2019), and Muskego's Hunter Wohler (2020).

The award is named after Jim Leonhard, one of the most beloved players from the state of Wisconsin. Hailing from tiny Tony, Wisconsin and attending Flambeau High School, Leonhard was a two-time All-State selection. He walked-on at the University of Wisconsin, and quickly established himself as a leader and outstanding player. He started 39 games in his career, and his 21 career interceptions are tied for the most in Badger history and fourth in the Big Ten. He also broke the Big Ten punt return yardage record. Leonhard went undrafted, but hooked on with the Buffalo Bills before moving to the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and Cleveland Browns. He is now a very successful assistant coach back at Wisconsin.

The voting panel for the WSN Senior Football Awards consisted of:  Travis Wilson, WSN General Manager and Head Football Writer;  Norbert Durst, WSN Content Manager; Dennis Semrau, ESPN Madison; B.J. DeGroot, WSCO The Score 95.3 in Appleton; Curt Hogg, NOW Newspapers; Dan Barwick, WSN Contributor; Colton Wilson, WSN Content Producer; Fan Vote

About the Author

Travis Wilson serves as the General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.

For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)

Tag(s): News Archive  News  Travis Wilson  Senior FB Awards