Matt Leonard has stepped down as Meadowdale High School’s head football coach to continue his high school coaching career in Texas.
Leonard took over as the Mavericks’ head coach in 2015 and guided them to a 22-20 record over the past four seasons, including the program’s first-ever state semifinal appearance in 2016. He also was a Meadowdale assistant wrestling coach for the past four years and taught both English and social studies at the school.
Leonard has accepted positions as the head wrestling coach and an assistant football coach at Weiss High School, located in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Texas. Weiss opened in 2017 and competes at the state’s Class 5A level, the second-highest classification in the Lone Star State.
Leonard, a Bothell High School graduate, said the move to Texas stemmed in large part from a desire to eventually turn coaching football into a full-time job.
“As I started to evolve as a coach and visit different colleges and different staffs and whatnot, I just kind of started to see that maybe I wanted my (professional) life to be just football,” he said. “So you kind of look around (to see) where can you make that happen.
“You can go to college (or) you can go to the NFL. … Or where does that happen for high school coaches? There’s really only one place, and it’s Texas.”
Leonard, who has a brother living in the Austin area, said he began looking at football coaching openings in Texas this spring after being informed he’d likely be laid off from his teaching job as part of the recent Edmonds School District staff cuts.
Leonard said he ended up keeping his job and was planning to stay at Meadowdale when he received a call from Weiss’ head football coach and athletic coordinator.
“I initially told him no — that we had already started spring ball and I was going to be here at Meadowdale this year,” Leonard said. “Then he kind of upped the ante and offered the head wrestling coaching position (too). … It just kind of turned into an offer that I didn’t think I could turn down.”
Leonard said leaving Meadowdale was “the hardest decision I think I’ve ever made.”
“It’s so hard (to leave) when you work so hard to build relationships with kids on a personal basis,” he said. “To walk away, it’s really hard. I’m getting emotional thinking about that. I mean, that’s why you do it. You do it for the kids. I’ll miss them.
“The timing really is the thing that really has me the saddest,” he added, “because I think that we’ve done a really good job in our offseason of preparing ourselves to have a fantastic football and wrestling season.”
Leonard said he has lots of “incredible memories” from his time at Meadowdale. Some of the most notable came during the 2016 football team’s run to the Class 3A state semifinals, which was highlighted by three nail-biting postseason victories and a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-19 with less than a minute to play.
“Honestly, just the best four years of my life,” Leonard said. “Just tremendous kids, tremendous families, tremendous support from within the school. … It’s a really special place of people, and I’ll miss that.”
Meadowdale athletic director Beth Marriott said the school posted the job opening and hopes to announce a new head coach by mid-July. Assistant coach James Harmon will lead the Mavericks until a new head coach is hired, Marriott said.
“I couldn’t be happier for (Matt), because this is football at its finest when you head to Texas,” Marriott said. “I love that he’s challenging himself with this move, and this is the time in his life when he should be doing those things.
“This is sad for our community,” she added, “but we only wish him the best, because he’s going to do amazing things.”