McLeish: Versatile 3-sport Athlete, 5-time State Finalist
Tommy McLeish could be competing for either Assumption College or the University of New Hampshire in the fall.
QB Led KP to Super Bowl Championship
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Tommy McLeish isn’t a unique athlete but he’s got all the attributes needed to be successful in three sports.
The King Philip senior is a leader. He was a captain in football, currently is a captain in basketball and will finish his career as a captain in baseball. Definitely a leader by example, he also is supportive and communicative.
“Being a captain means being accountable,’’ McLeish noted. “That involves making sure everyone’s ready to compete and ready to give 100 percent. Preparation is crucial, too, and that involves watching film and going the extra mile. I’m honored that my teammates in all sports voted for me to be a captain. That’s an awesome feeling.’’
McLeish also is calm under pressure, playing positions that are challenging and demanding — quarterback in football, center in basketball and a shortstop and pitcher (closer) in baseball.
The Norfolk resident has an insatiable work ethic and his day-to-day preparation is relentless. His commitment to KP sports and hispassion for athletics are what make McLeish tick.
Relying on a competitive philosophy that focuses on reaching his potential, McLeish says it’s also important “to enjoy whatever sport I’m playing.” When those two situations occur, winning should be the end result. But, in McLeish’s case, he’s had to rely on a plethora of patience before he could celebrate a state championship.
A native of Holliston, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder was a key component in helping the Warriors get to state final appearances in football and baseball. Catholic Memorial defeated KP twice in Super Bowl matchups and Milton stopped the Warriors twice in bids to win a state crown in baseball. McLeish, however, ended all those disappointments when he led KP to a commanding 42-14 victory over Marshfield in last fall’s Division 2 Super Bowl.
“Winning a Super Bowl title was exciting,’’ he said. “There was lots of happiness and I was glad we could win for our school and the communities KP serves. It was surreal in a way because it took a while to sink in, but it sure was a reward for all our hard work in the off-season. My career at KP has been a glorious ride. It’s been a blessing to get the opportunity to compete for five state championships.’’
McLeish hopes to enroll at either Assumption College or the University of New Hampshire where he plans to play football and likely major in business administration. His future could also involve coaching.
Following is a look at the athletic McLeish and the three sports he’s been devoted to during his KP career.
Now in his third varsity season, McLeish primarily concentrates on rebounding and protecting the rim in his role as a starter at center. Although he can shoot threes, scoring isn’t a priority.
“My focus is on the defensive end,’’ he noted. “Rebounding, shot-blocking and passing are the areas I strive to improve. My scoring comes mostly on rebound put-backs and drives to the hoop. However, I did have a fairly good percentage from the three-point arc last year.’’
He completed 86 passes of 139 attempts for 1,336 yards, threw 18 TD passes and rushed for two TDs. He was intercepted only three times.
“I try to lead and help my teammates by being a coach on the field,’’ McLeish said. “I rely on athleticism, passing accuracy, instincts and an ability to read defenses. Coach Lee, however, deserves the credit because he stresses a strong work ethic and he wants what’s best for his players.’’
The Super Bowl victory over Marshfield is without question McLeish’s top thrill at KP, and it’s easy to understand why. If the outcome had gone the other way, the Warriors would be looking at a three-year losing streak in Super Bowls.
McLeish topped off his stellar King Philip football career by being named a Boston Globe All-Scholastic and the Division 2 Athlete of the Year.
After losing two straight years to Milton in the state finals, McLeish’s goal in baseball is to qualify for the tourney and win the state crown.
“Milton had a great team the first time we lost to them but we had a chance to be state champs last year,’’ McLeish recalled. “The second meeting was a close game.’’
McLeish will play shortstop when he isn’t closing out a game. Relying on a fastball, slider and a change-up, he enjoys his role as the closer. “I like the pressure,’’ he said. “It a good feeling to get the final out.’’
A quality fielder, McLeish has speed and a strong arm to complete difficult plays. “I like playing shortstop,’’ he said. “It’s a vital position, a lot like quarterback where there’s lots of action.’’
With a season to go before his KP career ends, McLeish’s best game in baseball came against Foxboro last year. “I’m just an average hitter but I connected on a pitch and hit a home run that traveled about 330 feet,’’ he recalled. “We won the game to make it a good day.’’
A fan of coach Jeff Plympton Jr., McLeish rates him as “a terrific motivator who’s always on an even keel.’’ McLeish also admires the coach’s strategic moves and the way he maintains control, “never getting too high or too low.’’
Plympton concurs with McLeish’s other coaches about his leadership ability. “I saw many leadership traits in Tommy as a sophomore,’’ Plympton said. “He’s always there to lift others up and he’s approachable. Last year, we limited his pitching and used him mostly at shortstop. He’s a smooth fielder and he’s got great hands in the field.’’
Another state title would be frosting on the cake for McLeish. He’s had five state final appearances and whether basketball or baseball will provide another remains to be seen.
One situation, however, that won’t change is McLeish’s perspective. He knows that any journey to a state final game requires plenty of sacrifice, lots of hard work, and good health.
And, when an athlete, like Tommy McLeish, relies on desire, dedication and devotion, then it’s easy to understand what makes him tick. goal this year is for the Warriors to qualify for the tourney and go deeper than last year when KP lost to Lawrence in the first round after winning a play-in game against Hingham.
“The basketball program had a long playoff drought before we qualified last year,’’ McLeish said. “Getting to the tourney was a good achievement and we want to make it two consecutive appearances.’’
McLeish’s goal is realistic because the Warriors have some top-notch strengths. “We’re athletic and long,’’ he offered. “And, we’ve got size. We’re a young team but the players have a high hoop IQ, they’re instinctive and they’ve got mental toughness.’’
McLeish has high praise for KP’s other captains — senior Trevor Clyde (power forward) and junior Tommy Kilroy (shooting forward).
“Trevor is 6-foot-3, enabling him to rebound and block shots,’’ McLeish emphasized. “He’s a smart player with a high hoop IQ. He’s a captain who leads by example and is very supportive. Tommy probably is our best shooter and he’s a strong defender. He can effectively lock down opposing scorers. He also leads by example and can be vocal, too.’’
Coach Dave DeStefano has high praise for McLeish’s overall attributes.
“Tommy is one of the best leaders I have ever coached,’’ he said. “Not only is he a vocal leader, but he also leads by example. He’s got high character, he’s hard-working, and an overall great kid. He pushes his teammates every day in practice because he knows that for us to reach our goals everyone needs to give maximum effort. It is especially noticeable on the defensive end. He’s a competitor who hates to lose and will put in the extra work to make sure that we are all prepared and are in a position to be successful.’’
DeStefano also gets high marks from McLeish. “He knows how to vary schemes to help our offense and defense, and he’s very good with x’s and o’s,’’ McLeish noted. “A tremendous motivator, he also relates well to the players.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline, the Warriors had a 4-4 record.
McLeish says his most memorable game came in the loss to Lawrence last year in the playoffs.
“We were in the game for three-quarters before they pulled away,’’ he recalled. “We were the underdogs but all the guys played well and we competed with lots of energy. Our team effort was really outstanding.’’
McLeish’s gridiron career got off to a slow start — a fractured collarbone suffered in the second game of his sophomore season against Needham ended that campaign for the up-and-coming quarterback.
“That was tough because we got to the Super Bowl against Catholic Memorial and I couldn’t play,’’ he lamented. “Then, CM beat us again in the 2022 Super Bowl my junior year and that hurt. It hurt to see our seniors cry after the game.’’
The talented Warriors, with McLeish at QB last November at Gillette Stadium, erased all the previous hurt when KP defeated the Marshfield Rams by 28 points. McLeish attempted 15 passes and completed 11 for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
“I wish I could take credit for what Tommy McLeish adds to our program,” said coach Brian Lee. “That’s all him. He’s an athlete, a winner and such a good leader. I felt that if he played well, we’d be fine.”
McLeish, whose father played tight end for the University of Mississippi, isn’t one to stand alone in the spotlight. He lauded his line and his receivers for providing the offensive spark.
“The line was moving people all night,” he said after the triumph. “They were making holes and that opened the passing game. Mason Campbell, Danny Silveria, David Holland and everyone else in there were making big-time catches.”
Were the 2023 Warriors the best football team in KP’s history? The stats that the 2023 team compiled against Marshfield are of epic proportions.
KP accumulated 447 yards of total offense (281 rushing and 166 passing) to only 203 for Marshfield. The Warriors’ high-powered attack compiled 23 first downs to four for Marshfield.
KP trailed only once, 7-0, in the first quarter before taking a 21-14 lead at halftime. The second half was like a bloody knockout in boxing as KP dominated the final 24 minutes, outscoring Marshfield, 21-0.
KP’s 13-game unbeaten season ended with the Warriors averaging 33.9 points per game and its defense allowed a meager 6.6 points a game. They went unbeaten, won the Hockomock League title and became state champs.
McLeish’s strengths at QB no doubt played a key role in the success the 2023 team experienced