Leon Ashford
Class of 2023

Leon Ashford

Before becoming a successful attorney and representing the University of Alabama against the NCAA, Leon Ashford was once a student manager on coach Ferman Elmore’s Athens High School football teams. One of his duties was to make sure the football field was lined off properly before the Golden Eagles home games. A responsibility that didn’t go unnoticed by Elmore said his son Jerry Elmore. “My dad always said that if you had a good manager, it was like having two coaches,” said Elmore, a 2012 LCSHOF inductee. “Leon was certainly a guy who my dad trusted. Leon was so professional in what he did for the football team that the players looked at him like a coach. He was a cut above everyone else. Leon was extremely intelligent and as sharp as anybody you would ever meet.”

Ashford played baseball during high school but it was a chance meeting with an Alabama assistant football coach that would lead Ashford to Tuscaloosa and begin a six-decade affiliation with the university. “I played baseball but was unable to play other sports because of a bad back. Coach (Clem) Gryska was recruiting some of our football players at Athens High School. I was introduced to him and after a long conversation, he offered me a student trainer’s scholarship to Alabama,” said the 2023 LCSHOF inductee. “I arrived in Tuscaloosa during the summer after I graduated high school with a splint on my finger due to a baseball injury. The head trainer, Jim Goosetree, asked me how I was going to help him when I was injured. But, I healed quickly and was able to serve as student trainer for not only football but baseball and basketball as well during my undergraduate year’s. One of my highlights was being a trainer on the 1966 undefeated, untied and uncrowned football team. I proudly wear the Missing Ring at all our games.”

Ashford would earn his undergraduate degree in 1970. That same year, he was lettered by legendary coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and became a member of the University “A” Club. Encouraged by Coach Bryant to attend law school, Ashford earned his law degree from the University of Alabama Law School in 1973.

Ashford remained close to Alabama’s Athletic Department, representing two former head football coaches and current head football coach Nick Saban. In 1994, the University of Alabama Administration and Office of General Counsel asked Ashford and his law firm to represent the Faculty Athletics Representative before the NCAA Infractions Appeal Committee. In the first successful appeal in NCAA history, the good name of the Faculty Athletics Representative was cleared and many of the sanctions against the athletic department was overturned. 

Ashford says the life lessons he learned in the athletic arena have assisted him in the field of law. “I was fortunate to work under Coach Elmore at Athens High School and then Coach Bryant at Alabama. It has been an honor to provide legal representation to the university, Coach (Gene) Stallings and now Coach Saban. As well, I proudly serve as member of the Nick’s Kids Foundation Board and the legacy of generosity the Saban family will leave in Tuscaloosa is incomparable. One of the main things I learned under these men was that to have a successful organization, you must surround yourself with good people, make them feel like they are part of a team and be good to them” said Ashford. 

As far as being inducted into this year’s LCSHOF class, Ashford said he is honored and is looking forward to seeing many of his old friends. “I have been out of Athens for a long time but I still have family living there. I look forward to seeing some people I haven’t seen in years. I am humbled and grateful to be inducted in the company of those honored before me,” said Ashford.