Pete Leota likes to push people around, and that’s not a bad thing.
The 6-foot-5, 306-pound rising senior lineman from Asheville High comes into this season as easily the most-recruited football player from Western North Carolina.
So many Division I schools are vying for Leota this summer with scholarship offers that they need to be put in alphabetical order – Appalachian State, Boston College, East Carolina, Georgia Southern, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
But get this, Leota didn’t take up the full-contact sport until the eighth grade. And he only did so at the suggestion of Cougars assistant coach Scott Buchanan.
Learning the proper technique was an obvious hurdle. However, in terms of physicality, Leota could draw upon the pickup rugby games he once played as a child in Samoa.
The Leota family moved to America in 2009.
“What a lot of people don’t understand about Pete is that he hasn’t yet arrived,” Asheville coach Danny Wilkins said.
“There is so much upside to his future. He’s already come a long way as a football player, but he’s constantly getting better. It’s going to be real interesting to see where he ends up.”
Leota earned All-MAC and Citizen-Times All-WNC honors in 2014 as a junior after the MAC 3-A champion Cougars (12-2) amassed 4,315 rushing yards (an average of 308.2 per game) and produced a 1,500-yard passer in former quarterback Tevin Salters.
Leota is an affable teenager who insists that all the individual attention is nice.
But he would rather it be spread around, especially for a team that will be looking to extend a school-record streak of 10 straight championships in the Mountain Athletic Conference this fall.
“”It’s important to me that I’m not the main focus, I want everyone to talk about my team,” Leota said.
“We’re a whole new team from last year and we want to chase our dreams.”
Leota has been quoted in multiple reports as saying that he has narrowed his recruiting focus to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. But Leota reiterated this week that there is no rush to make a decision.
Leota and the Cougars open their season Aug. 21 at home against defending WNC Athletic Conference champion Franklin.