This single word not only accurately depicts Leonard’s nearly 20 years as an an actor, singer, writer and producer, but it also depicts the totality of his life.

Born on February 20, 1979 in Somers Point, NJ, he grew up just a few minutes away in a small town called Pleasantville where he became known for his basketball skills, delivering Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and being a top student.

Perhaps, every human being has a single moment that defines their life and for Leonard it was performing Dr. King’s speech in front of a congregation of nearly 800 people at a church ceremony commemorating Dr. King’s birthday during his sophomore year in high school. Afterward, he convinced his principal to pay for acting classes for him. The next year, he founded his own theater production company, Cineplay Productions, which he still operates. Later that year, he was cast as Corporal Dawson in a community theater production of “A Few Good Men.” His performance, according to director Helen Vaspoli, was among the finest she had seen in her 40 years of theater. Following high school, and upon being selected as an Edward J Bloustein scholar, he was accepted to The University of the Arts, Montclair State University, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and Fordham University for which he chose in honor of one of his childhood heroes, Denzel Washington.

I AM PEYTON MANNING

I AM PEYTON MANNING

"Like Mike, if I could be like Mike." If you are under the age of thirty then this lyrical theme and memorable melody is completely foreign to you. I'll throw you a bone. "I. Am. Malcolm X." Familiar? End of Spike Lee's epic movie about the iconic civil rights acitvist? Again, if you are under thirty I understand. If you are under thirty, then the social media age has taught you to follow as opposed to lead, to trail behind as opposed to emulate. Well, I'm thirty-four and I live to be the best at what I do and who I am. I. AM. PEYTON MANNING.

There is something about the competitive nature of sports that resides with comfort in our DNA. Life is competitive. In grade school you compete to be accepted by your peers. In high school, you compete for prom king. In college, you compete to establish your niche and prepare for the world of employment. We compete for promotions. We compete for attention. We compete for acceptance. We compete trying to survive day to day. We compete to maintain whatever lifestyle we have. Competition is an intrinsic subtext to life. The difference between those of us who are die-hard fans of sports and those who look at us as hopeless and ridiculous is that our competitive drive is a little higher and stronger. Thus, we live vicariously through sports. We call out from work dispirited and even despondent after a devastating loss by one of our teams or favorites. Drinks are on the house when our team wins as the elation trumphs any fiduciary matters. We hate the neighbor in such defeats. We love our enemies after victory. Our teams lose a game. We lose in life. Somehow the interception thrown for a pick-six to cost us the game sends us to our knees in agony because life affords us memories and, unfortunately, the memories that bully their way to the forefront of our minds are those of disappointment and pain. Consequently, the game-losing interception is a stimulant for all of the times we almost did it or we almost had the job or almost had the girl.

Even more, our sports heroes reflect so many things about us. In other words, we often choose them because we see parallels between us and them in our mannerisms, personality, and even skillsets (if we also play sports). In fact, living vicariously through them, for us, sets in motion that their essence and being can invade our spirit. For me, this was evident as a young boy when Magic Johnson was my hero. I not only patterned my basketball game after Magic's but eventually Magic became so much a part of me that I developed a little bit of his personality (the smile, the happy-go-lucky flare). More importantly, Magic was a winner. He was a collegiate champion and NBA champion. On a lesser level, in the leagues I played in, I was a driving force behind teams that were winners. My youth teams won championships and loss very little games. I was an All-Star and the crowning achievement was when the basketball community began calling me "Magic" (a nickname some back home still call me to this day).

GO TO CLOSE UP

Peyton Manning is a winner as well in a more complex and esoteric way. Along with Tim Duncan he is my modern day sports hero. Manning had a record setting 2013-14 campaign with 55 regular season touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards, eclipsing Tom Brady's TD mark in 2007 and Drew Brees's yardage record in 2011. Both of these records were almost indelibly attached to Dan Marino. Manning now has 491 career TD passes, which is second all time to Brett Favre's 508. He has a whopping 64,964 passing yards, also second to Favre's 71,738 yards. In spite of his detractors and his eight first-playoff-game exits--after normally dominant regular season performances by he and his teams--he does have a Super Bowl win, something his most similar predecessor Dan Marino does not have.

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My Ordinary Person

My Ordinary Person


"Life is happening FOR you." Digest that for a little bit. The more you embrace it, the more you realize it is, without question, credible.

I first heard those words from Aaron Bomar, a man who has become one of my dearest friends in the world. He's something special folks and he is the real deal."Life is happening for you." Not only do I continue to hear those words--even to this day--but I can hear Aaron saying them in his trademark, never-to-be-mistaken southern drawl. Now, this is a man whose own life story can hardly be mistaken for 'life happening for him.'

He grew up in a foster home. He was an alcoholic, drug user and gambler. All three threatened to take his life. He even got in on the act by threatening to take his own. In fact, this native of Cincinnati found his way roughly 7 miles from where I grew up, in Atlantic City. America's Playground was more than the recess he needed and he was kicked out of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and led to Bethesda Mission where his life would start to take a 360 degree turn. To go through life without another drink or drug would be the penultimate of accomplishments. That is extraordinary in its own right. To become an actor recognized and celebrated by so many is damn impressive. I have shared the stage with Aaron Bomar. In fact, the most powerful scene I have ever done either on stage or in front of the camera happened with Aaron last February at Open Stage in August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." The scene was riveting and it's, in large part, due to the prodigious talents of Aaron.

Life is, indeed, happening for us. It happened and is happening for this once ordinary, troubled man whose story is a great triumph of the human spirit. Most don't overcome what Aaron overcame. Most remain captive to the slavery of addiction. Not Aaron. Aaron went to acting school and then straight to the stage and eventually to TV and film where he recently had a role in the Investigation Disovery Channel's "Southern Fried Homicide."  He had a feature role in the episode Bleeding Heart. He also had a principal role in the film Easy Hustle. Finally, he is now entering the world of voice overs and just completed a spot for Goodwill in Harrisburg,PA.

Yes, Aaron Bomar made it. He is a phenomenal actor and an even better human being. He's also no stranger to a good prank, as you will witness here in this backstage clip from "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" at Open Stage in which we both co-starred ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oZur8qkM8c) It was customary during fight call each night to go through the fight choreography for the final scene in which my character stabs Aaron's character, ultimately killing him. Well, courtesy of Aaron (and another dear friend and actor Ronnie Banks) my knife flash was met with guns, which is NOT a part of the script. My initial reaction says it all. LOL! It was gut-busting hilarious.

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My Ordinary Person

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Meet Brenda Phillips. A 25 year old with a model's beauty and a passion for the youth. Let me rephrase: For Our Youth.

I have gotten to know Brenda a little bit over the past, let's see, two years or so. I got to know her even better several months back when we met. She was sick as a dog but over pizza and chicken wings she told me her backstory. What a story! Abandonment, trauma, despair--all a part of her past. As she sniffed up the cold trying to contain and conquer it, I tried not to sniff up tears. Then, like the plot in a movie you don't see coming she talked about making a difference. She didn't just talk about it like you talk about the latest episode of R&B Divas. Nah! She did something that totally caught me off guard. She went deep in this passion and the deeper she went, the more she doubted until she finally exclaimed, "I don't know how I'm going to do this!"

I've been there. In 1996 I had a vision to start a theater production company as a junior in high school. I said the same thing until I started dropping the "ubt" in doubt opting to hold on to the first two letters "do." I locked into her eyes and just went Nike on her, saying "just do it."

We traded stories of life, lessons learned and finally she started to drift asleep. Somehow, not feeling as if I helped her enough the words "follow your heart" came to mind and led to a song that has now come to be named "Lead Your Heart" that will be released soon. I said my good night and began formulating the following:

How do I start?

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