For over 30 years, Pete Leno has been a cornerstone of Blue Hawk football and athletic training. From 1991 to 2024, he served Dickinson State University as an offensive line coach and a kinesiology professor. His career was celebrated on Wednesday, May 22 at the Biesiot Activity Center. The evening brought together more than 100 former athletes, colleagues, friends, and family, each sharing stories of Leno’s remarkable impact both on and off the field.

Leno, a visionary in athletic training, was the driving force behind Accupower Solutions, software that assesses athletic performance metrics such as jumps and balance. Leno taught kinesiology and was the offensive line coach for 19 seasons. Head coach Pete Stanton asked him to return for the 2017-2018 season because the team needed him, and so, of course, he agreed.

Throughout his career, Leno coached 17 NAIA All-Americans and more than 50 All-Conference players, including a Hall of Fame inductee. He has mentored more than 2,000 athletes, four reaching the Olympic level.

Arlan Hofland, former DSU defensive coordinator, remarked, “Pete was a vital faculty member. Always encouraging, mentoring, and advising.” Hofland noted Leno’s visionary training skills. Leno is, according to Hofland, the reason that Dickinson State has a highly successful and impactful Exercise Science program.

Former head football coach Hank Biesiot hired Leno in 1991. He reflected, “Pete was a P.K. (preacher’s kid). That really impressed me. I knew he would be a go-getter who would follow through and build relationships. The people in the room tonight can attest to that. He is important to everyone here, and you are important to him.”

Three-time All-American, four-time All-Conference player, and NAIA Hall of Famer Rory Farstveet took the stage next to pay tribute to his former coach and mentor, calling him one of the best coaches he had ever played for. “Very few men walk on this earth that I have more respect for; he coached me, fathered me, and loved me.”

Former players shared memories of Leno’s endless one-liners, deep knowledge of kinesiology, no-nonsense blue-collar approach, and his ability to leave a place better than he found it. A humorous highlight of the evening was the friendly debate between former offensive linemen Jimmie Rhodes and J.R. Foreman, who discussed who had traveled the furthest to attend the celebration. Both "hoggies" hail from Texas, but Jimmie’s journey from Houston outstripped J.R.'s from Dallas by a couple of hundred miles, illustrating the lengths to which Leno’s former players would go to honor their coach.

Leno’s wife, Deb, and their two sons, Luke and Seth, were in attendance to share this special night. In his closing remarks, Leno noted, “This is not just my night, it is my family’s as well. The four of us did this journey together.”

As the event concluded, current DSU football coach Pete Stanton announced the creation of an endowed scholarship in Leno’s honor, a joint effort by the DSU Touchdown Club and the DSU Heritage Foundation.

Longtime sports radio announcer and Master of Ceremonies Rod Kleinjan summed it up, “The real tribute is all the players that are back to honor Pete tonight.” This celebration not only honored Pete Leno’s professional achievements but also underscored the enduring bonds he formed with his students and athletes, leaving a legacy that will live on for generations at Dickinson State University.

Pete Leno himself reminded everyone, “Love your teammates; they will still be there for you 40 years down the road. Our faculty took teaching just as seriously as coaching, if not more. Teaching and coaching are the same thing—just a different subject.”

For individuals interested in being a part of honoring this coach and teacher who has made such an impact on Dickinson State University, please visit Photos of the event can be found here: 2024 Pete Leno Send-Off | Flickr.