Shane Leatherbury has always played with a chip on his shoulder.
A former quarterback at Delmar High School, he earned an all-conference second team nod as a senior but didn’t garner the recognition needed to receive a spot on a Division I roster.
After a brief stint at Seton Hill College, then coming back to the Eastern Shore to attend Wor-Wic Community College, Leatherbury was a walk-on wide receiver at Towson University in 2017. He eventually earned a scholarship, set program records and scored 12 touchdowns with 667 receiving yards as a senior.
At 5-foot-11 and with no pro day due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Leatherbury didn’t expect to hear his name called during the 2020 NFL Draft.
Towson wide receiver and former Delmar athlete Shane Leatherbury runs down field during a game.
Towson wide receiver and former Delmar athlete Shane Leatherbury runs down field during a game. (Photo: Submitted Image: ENP Photography)
But he was confident his football career would continue.
Leatherbury was signed Saturday by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent. He is the first Delmar player since Alex Ellis to earn a spot on an NFL squad.
“I couldn’t stop walking and jumping around,” Leatherbury said. “I was so hyped, and my family was so happy and excited. When they called me, I don’t think they could understand a word I was saying since I was talking so fast.”
The Towson receiver and his agent had been in contact with nearly a dozen teams regarding a rookie free agent contract.
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Leatherbury improved every season on the collegiate level, leading the Tigers in receiving his junior and senior seasons. The Delmar grad finished his career at Towson with a pair of All-CAA selections, finishing third in receiving touchdowns (21), eighth in receptions (149) and 10th in receiving yards (1,848).
Not long after the draft concluded, Leatherbury received a call from an Arizona number. On the line was Cardinals’ wide receiver coach David Raih, informing the Eastern Shore native he was headed to the NFL.
“I was just hoping for a chance,” Leatherbury said. “We wanted to find the best fit for where I could make the roster. I had confidence my agent would get something done.”
Shane Leatherbury is a redshirt senior wide receiver for the Towson football team.
Shane Leatherbury is a redshirt senior wide receiver for the Towson football team. (Photo: Submitted Image: ENP Photography)
Leatherbury said the lack of a pro day hurt his chances to be seen by NFL teams in person. However, he and his agent sent film to several squads, confident someone would see the talent the Towson receiver brought to the table.
“I think (having a pro day) would have raised my stock,” he said. “But I’m not going to say I would have got drafted (if I had one).”
As he was sitting at his home in Salisbury surrounded by family, Leatherbury’s phone wouldn’t stop buzzing.
Before he signed, friends and others sent messages offering encouragement and support. Once the news broke he was headed to Arizona, a flood of calls and texts came in — some he still hasn’t had a chance to respond to.
“You really don’t know just how many people are rooting for you,” Leatherbury said. “Everyone from Delmar, Salisbury, Delaware, Towson — it’s just crazy. That kind of makes it seem more real; like it’s really happening.”
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The coronavirus pandemic will prevent Leatherbury from traveling to Arizona in the near future, however he said virtual meetings with coaches and trainers will begin soon.
The receiver has recently trained to prepare for the combine, but now that he’s part of an NFL team, Leatherbury is prepping his body for the demands of training camp, hoping to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
“I’m trying to get bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “There’s not much change (in the training), it’s just a little bit up tempo, so I better be ready.”
The Cardinals feature several notable wide receivers, including DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded from the Houston Texans in March and Larry Fitzgerald, a 17-year veteran who’s been to 11 pro bowls.
Leatherbury has yet to contact his new teammates, but believes learning from guys who are known as some of the best at their position will benefit him for years to come.
“I hope I don’t annoy them too much,” he said with a laugh.
Shane Leatherbury and Delmar started the season 0-4 before earning their first win against Milford last Saturday.
Shane Leatherbury and Delmar started the season 0-4 before earning their first win against Milford last Saturday. (Photo: Justin Odendhal photo )
The former Delmar athlete has accomplished one of his dreams by making it to the NFL.
But he knows there’s still work to be done.
Leatherbury is one of 14 undrafted free agents the Cardinals signed, according to NFL.com, and joins a crowded wide receivers group, which includes fellow undrafted rookie pass catcher Cedric Byrd II (University of Hawaii).
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Given what he’s overcome so far, Leatherbury is eager to prove he can make it at football’s highest level.
“All I can do is be myself,” he said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. No matter what, the best players are going to play, and I have to go out and prove I’m worthy of being there.”