From the loud roar of the Winfield Dunn Center to the calm nature of a golf course, numerous student-athletes have helped APSU in becoming one of the most reputable programs in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Each student-athlete in APSU’s rich athletic history garners their own unique story; however, few have one near that of Grant Leaver.
Widely regarded as the greatest to ever tee off for men’s golf, Leaver also has his name tied to an APSU championship appearance under legendary basketball coach Dave Loos.
A Centerville, Tenn. native, Leaver had an impressive career as a multi-sport athlete at Hickman County High School.
At 6-7, the lengthy big averaged 17.6 points per game in his senior season for the Bulldogs basketball team and was named as an Honorable Mention for the Associated Press All-State team in 2004.
While he was a dominant force on the hardwood, Leaver built a legacy on the green in high school under head coach and APSU alum Jim Herron.
During his four years at HCHS, Leaver appeared in three consecutive Tennessee Class AAA state tournaments. He finished top-25 in each state tournament appearance and posted top-10 performances in 2002 and 2003.
After receiving offers from APSU and UT Knoxville, Leaver committed to the Governors and was the sole recruit in head coach Mark Leroux’s 2004-05 recruiting class.
While he never played under Leroux–the coach left for the University of Missouri, where he still coaches today–Leaver was a key component under Kirk Kayden during his four years in Clarksville.
As a freshman, Leaver was named as the 2005 men’s golf OVC Freshman of the Year and was also a second-team All-OVC selection after finishing with three top-10 and seven top-20 finishes in his freshman campaign.
It seemed that the former Bulldog had easy transition from Centerville to Clarksville due to his numerous newcomer accolades, but the start of the future hall of famer’s career was anything but trouble-free.
“It was difficult at first, because when I first came to Austin Peay as a freshman I was living in the dorms and there was not a single person from my high school that came that year,” Leaver said. “Everyone I was seeing or meeting was a new face and I was even living by myself for the first couple of months because they hadn’t paired me up with anybody. That part was a big adjustment to college, just kind of venturing out. When you are young, you are kind of self-conscious about things and I had just gotten braces two weeks before I went to college.
“That was just on my mind all the time when I was meeting new people. That and who was I going to sit with in the cafeteria. I didn’t have any roommates or any running buddies. All the golfers were older than me. I was the only freshman that year and everyone was living off campus, so I was just kind of all alone.”
Despite not knowing many faces when he arrived in Clarksville, Leaver found home in a familiar restaurant just a stone’s throw from campus that he says Herron took him to during visits in high school.
“[I had] been to Johnny’s Big Burger right there across from campus, and that is all that I needed. I was good with Johnny’s. If I had all the money I spent at Johnny’s back then, I would be a happy guy right now,” Leaver said jokingly of the popular Clarksville restaurant.
As a junior, Leaver earned All-OVC honors in addition to tying the program’s scoring record with teammate Yoshio Yamamoto at 72.3. He went on to break the tie a year later when he posted a season average of 72.03, a record that still stands today.
In addition to his record-tying golf season as a junior, Leaver relived his high school days on the basketball court when he joined the Dave Loos’ 2006-07 men’s basketball team that fell a buzzer-beater shy of being crowned OVC Tournament Champions.
Leaver started in one game and appeared in seven over the course of the season. In 35 minutes, the 6-7 golf star-turned-DI hooper recorded 12 points, eight rebounds, five offensive rebounds and a trio of steals.
While he did not make the minimum requirement of 75 made free throws in a career of 45 in a season to officially be put in the men’s basketball record book, Leaver’s 100% from the charity stripe (2-2) technically puts him as the program’s all-time leader in both free throw percentage statistics.
In 2015, Leaver became enshrined in the APSU Athletics Hall of Fame alongside names such as Bob Bradley (men’s basketball) and Ed Bunio (football).
Currently, Leaver is just one of seven former men’s golfers to have entered the Hall. Three years following Leaver’s induction, his former teammate Erik Barnes also entered immortality for his career.
Many remember the names of stars who were a part of championship winning programs or amassed so many points, yards or hits in their career, but the culture of APSU athletics was also drastically shaped by student-athletes such as Grant Leaver on the green.