Broncos hiring Jim Leonhard as new defensive backs coach

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Leonhard played for Broncos in 2012 as backup safety and punt returner. Had impressive success as Wisconsin defensive coordinator and interim head coach.

DENVER — Now this is a coaching hire.

According to a source, the Broncos have hired former Broncos safety and Wisconsin interim head coach Jim Leonhard as their new defensive backs coach. He replaces Christian Parker, who left to become an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Vic Fangio.

Leonhard has been the epitome of a football overachiever. Standing just 5-foot-8, 191 pounds, he walked on at Wisconsin and had 11 interceptions in 14 games his sophomore year and 21 over three seasons for the Badgers. Undrafted in 2005, he wound up playing 10 NFL seasons, including 2012 with the Broncos where he was a backup safety and punt returner.

He started his coaching career in 2016 at his alma mater where he was Wisconsin’s defensive backs coach. He became the Badgers’ defensive coordinator in 2017 where he transformed a unit that was 67th in points allowed before he took over to 9th in scoring defense in 2020 (out of 128), 4th in 2021 (out of 130) and 17th in 2022 (out of 131).

When Badgers head coach Paul Chryst was fired after a 2-3 start in 2022, Leonhard took over as interim head coach and guided the team to a 4-3 record and berth in a bowl game against Oklahoma State. However, the day after Wisconsin’s regular-season finale, the school named Luke Fickell its permanent head coach.

Leonhard, 41, spent last season as the University of Illinois’ senior defensive analyst.

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Broncos hiring Jim Leonhard as new defensive backs coach

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