Taos’s Ai­dan Leblanc makes the USA TO­DAY ALL-USA New Mex­ico Foot­ball Team

The Taos News - - SPORTS - Sheila Miller [email protected]­news.com

Ai­dan Leblanc is “the type of player who comes once in a blue moon,” says coach Art Abreu Jr.

The el­dest of six moved to New Mex­ico from Louisiana in 2017 and lives in An­gel Fire. He makes the long drive through the canyon to Taos for school in or­der to play foot­ball. “It’s all I know how to do,” he joked.

Coach Abreu dis­agrees, call­ing him the “def­i­ni­tion of a stu­dent ath­lete.” Leblanc him­self isn’t one to make too much of his aca­demic suc­cess, call­ing his fa­vorite sub­ject “off cam­pus” in keep­ing with his gen­eral mod­esty about all of his ac­com­plish­ments.

Those ac­com­plish­ments in­clude be­ing named to the All-District team, the 1st Team of the 4A New Mex­ico All-State Team, be­ing a mem­ber of the North­ern team for the North vs. South game in June of 2019 show­cas­ing New Mex­ico’s top foot­ball play­ers and, most re­cently, USA TO­DAY’s ALLUSA New Mex­ico team.

USA TO­DAY makes its se­lec­tions based on per­for­mance in a sin­gle year, in this case 2018-2019. For Leblanc, that was a sea­son of 18 sacks, 71 solo tack­les, 125 to­tal tack­les, 2 caused fum­bles, and 2 fum­ble re­cov­er­ies. His av­er­age of 9.6 tack­les per game is on pace with the best de­fen­sive line­men in the NFL.

Watch­ing Leblanc play, a per­son no­tices first how fast he is. “He brought speed to our de­fen­sive line,” Abreu said, and that in­fu­sion of speed from the Louisiana trans­fer stu­dent put Taos “over the edge” to win state.

One might think that trans­fer­ring be­tween high schools dur­ing sopho­more year would be a set­back. Leblanc sees it as an as­set that gave him the op­por­tu­nity to play un­der sev­eral head coaches and get to know their styles.

Com­pared to the coach of John Paul the Great Academy in Louisiana, where he played in ninth and 10th grades, he called Abreu’s style “a bit more mod­ern with a hint of old­school” in con­trast to the Veer of­fense in which pass­ing the ball is “ba­si­cally a trick play.”

Play­ing in dif­fer­ent places for dif­fer­ent peo­ple has given Leblanc the op­por­tu­nity not only to play with dif­fer­ent coaches and strate­gies, but to win with them. Back in Louisiana, the teams he played with in eighth, ninth and 10th grade went un­de­feated, win­ning state in each of those years.

Leblanc is defini­tively one of the best line­men in the state of New Mex­ico. It didn’t start that way. He’s al­ways been tall, so in eighth grade the coaches put him at de­fen­sive end and, “I sucked,” he claimed.

When the de­fen­sive tackle got hurt, they put Leblanc in and he “made ev­ery tackle.” Imag­ine his dis­may when he got to Taos and found him­self right back at de­fen­sive end. He’s clearly grown into it, play­ing through the pain of two in­jured shoul­ders in or­der to stick with it and to help his team.

“He’s a high-char­ac­ter kid,” Abreu said.

Leblanc’s char­ac­ter showed on the field. More than once

The Taos News wit­nessed his quiet sports­man­ship.

No mat­ter where he de­cides to go next, Leblanc has cul­ti­vated the dis­ci­pline to suc­ceed when he gets there. He won’t vol­un­teer to tell you about it, be­ing a man of few words as he is, but we rec­om­mend keep­ing an eye on him. You’ll have a chance June 7, 2019, dur­ing the Large School North vs. South game at Nusenda Com­mu­nity Sta­dium in Al­bu­querque.

Morgan Timms/The Taos News

Ai­dan Leblanc poses for a por­trait Tues­day (Jan. 8) at Taos High School.

Sheila Miller/ The Taos News

Ai­dan Leblanc and coach Art Abreu Jr. em­brace af­ter the Taos Tigers 14-7 state cham­pi­onship vic­tory over Bloom­field Dec. 1.

Sheila Miller/ The Taos News

Ai­dan Leblanc helps Por­tales quar­ter­back Ju­lian Urioste back to his feet af­ter hur­ry­ing him dur­ing the Tigers’ 35-14 semi­fi­nal win Nov. 24 that put them in the state cham­pi­onship game.

Sheila Miller/ The Taos News

Ai­dan Leblanc hur­ries Por­tales quar­ter­back Ju­lian Urioste dur­ing the Tigers’ 35-14 semi­fi­nal win Nov. 24 that put them in the state cham­pi­onship game.

Sheila Miller/ The Taos News

Ai­dan Leblanc cel­e­brates his fourth-quar­ter touch­town re­cep­tion that put the Tigers up by two touch­downs dur­ing the Tigers’ 35-14 semi­fi­nal win Nov. 24.

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