Leo Biedermann was born in Nebraska, grew up on the west coast and attended the University of California – Berkeley where he played football for the Golden Bears. He had already received some attention from National Football League scouts while in high school, from which he graduated at age 17.
He had offers from California and the University of Washington and chose Cal which had offered him a scholarship.
He accepted the scholarship and was told by the university they wanted him to first attend junior college for one semester, which he did in 1973.
In 1974 he began his career at Cal, redshirted that year, then played on the offensive line during the 1975, 1976 and 1977 seasons. One game in particular stands out for Biedermann - a 1975 game versus USC that was on national television, which back then was a really big deal.
In 1975, Cal was Pacific Coast League co-champion. In 1977, he made All-Conference Honorable Mention, even though he was out half the season with an injury.
He continued to train and was drafted in the 12th round of the 1978 draft by the Cleveland Browns as an offensive lineman. He signed for $25,000, a $3,500 signing bonus and a clause for another $3,500 if he made the team. Biedermann stood at 6 feet 8 inches, 254 pounds at that time.
Of Browns’ training camp, which was held at Kent State University, he said it was a real grind, two-a-day practices in high temperatures and nothing like today with repeated mandatory water breaks, etc.
Biedermann made the final cut and was designated as a back-up tackle for the 1978 season.
The team was up and down that year, finishing with an 8-8 record. Biedermann played on the kickoff special teams squad and also included time on the field for short yardage goal line plays and during point-after-touchdown (PAT) plays.
After the season he returned home, worked out and went to training camp in 1979. Camp was just about over when he got a call to meet with head coach Sam Rutigiano. “I got a call that said to meet with Sam and, oh, by the way, bring your playbook,” said Biedermann.
At the meeting he was told he was cut, the last lineman to be cut. So he went home and began working at a window treatment company at $600 a month. But he kept working out in hopes of another shot at pro football.
At the end of the year, he was contacted by the Philadelphia Eagles, signed a contract with them, then headed back to California.
On the way, he stopped at Cleveland to chat with Rutigiano. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a coach say what Sam said to me. He said, ‘Leo, I made a mistake. I should have kept you’,” Biedermann remembers.
Later, now in 1980, he’s training in Philadelphia and at the end of camp, head coach Dick Vermeil told him that he really wanted him on the team. They headed to a pre-season game in Oakland, in which Biedermann played well. Vermeil then told him Rutigiano wanted him back on the Browns. The next day, he was cut, again the last lineman to go.
So Biedermann made a stop in Cleveland and the Browns asked him to stay in the area and that they would pay some of his expenses if he’d do so. He did, but heard nothing further from the team, so he later went home.
Then, for the 1981 season, the San Francisco 49ers signed him, but the result was the same, last lineman to be cut.
Next, Biedermann is living in California with Dwight Clark, a 49ers tight end/wide receiver, when he gets a call from the Canadian Football League (CFL). The British Columbia Lions are interested, but nothing came of it. But soon thereafter, Biedermann gets another CFL call, so he goes to camp and, you guessed it, last lineman cut.
Then another Canada call. This time from the Montreal Alouettes. This time things work out. He makes the team in 1982 and plays in the first 10 games of the season as an offensive tackle.
CFL rules state that a maximum of 15 Americans can be on a team. When the Alouettes bring in an American quarterback, yep, Biedermann gets cut again.
Three weeks later the team calls him back. A player has been injured, so there’s a spot open. But he and the team could not work out a deal so Biedermann stayed home.
In 1983, the United States Football League was created (USFL) and he signed a contract with the Oakland Invaders. Biedermann played all 16 games, but in 1984, came the USFL expansion draft and he is in it. He’s picked up by the Memphis Showboats and reports to their camp. Two weeks later, leg issues plaque him and he decides to call it a career.
Looking back on those pro football experiences Biedermann said, “What you get from those experiences is that it teaches you work ethic, to be on time, to work with others, make decisions in a split second. All that is a microcosm of what life is. Football is not easy, life is not easy. It teaches you discipline and I learned to listen and take criticism.”
Today this Hot Springs Village resident is still at work. He’s a commercial real estate broker working out of Las Vegas, where he travels about every six weeks. He also helps out with the Fountain Lake School District football program.
One thing I noticed that was not on his list of lessons learned was persistence, certainly another trait this gentle giant of a man (6 feet, 8 inches remember) has perfected.