Duke’s Riley Leonard receives unusual motivational text from mom before each game


Duke quarterback Riley Leonard was thrust into the national spotlight on Monday as he led the Blue Devils to an upset victory over No. 9 Clemson, 28-7.

Leonard had a big rushing touchdown in the third quarter to give the Blue Devils the lead. Duke did not look back from there. Playing a top school like Clemson is motivation enough for a player like Leonard, but he definitely gets some extra help from his mother before games.

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Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard, #13, looks to pass during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, Sept. 4, 2023. ( Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

The junior quarterback, who had 20 touchdown passes in 2022, receives a text from his mother before every game for added motivation. The text message reads, “You suck.”

The unusual pregame ritual was highlighted on the ESPN broadcast. Leonard even wears a bracelet that reads, “You suck.” The broadcast explained that Leonard uses his mother’s text to “keep his ego in check.”

Leonard committed to Duke in 2020. He appeared in seven games in his freshman season before taking the reins last year. The Blue Devils were 9-4 last season and had not had at least nine wins in a season since 2014. They also won their first bowl game since 2018.

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Riley Leonard passes

Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard, #13, passes during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, Sept. 4, 2023. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

The Alabama native received offers from Ole Miss, Syracuse, Tulane, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and New Orleans before he went to Duke, according to 247 Sports.

On Monday, Leonard was 17-of-33 for 175 yards. He also rushed for 98 yards, buoyed by the 44-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter.

Riley Leonard runs against Clemson

Nate Wiggins, #2 of the Clemson Tigers, attempts to tackle Riley Leonard, #13 of the Duke Blue Devils, as he runs the ball during a football game at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2023. (David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” he said immediately after the game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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