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Studying sports greats is just as important as putting in the work for Maxx Crosby, defensive line

As Rob Leonard sat with Maxx Crosby and the rest of the defensive line watching Kobe Bryant highlights, he saw the similarities in passion between the late basketball star and the rising Raiders star.

"We both like Kobe," the defensive line coach said. "I told him to pull up his favorite Kobe video and show it to the guys, and we just talked a lot about mindset, mentality."

"[T]alking about the obsession with chasing greatness, it's real. It's real to him," Leonard added of Crosby. "Same mindset, very similar."

The 25-year-old Crosby has long admired Bryant, often posting quotes from the sports legend on Twitter, and it's clear he aims to channel the "Mamba Mentality" of being the best version of himself in every aspect of his life.

"I put in everything into my craft, not only on the field but off the field," Crosby said in May during OTAs. "I want to be the best person I could possibly be, the best leader I could be, the best athlete, the best football player I could possibly be, and that comes with more pressure.

"The more success you get, that's just inevitable. ... Even though it is hard, you're going to get more critics, you're going to get more attention, but that's a good thing at the end of the day. If nobody's talking about you, nobody expects big things from you, you're probably doing something wrong."

Leonard, who joins the Raiders this season after a year with the Baltimore Ravens, is getting to know the Silver and Black defensive line through the offseason workout program and while they won't go full speed or put on pads until Training Camp in July, he appreciates the leadership Crosby and Chandler Jones bring to a room that features many young rookies – both drafted and undrafted.

To him, it doesn't get any better for these young guys than to learn from two players who have made their marks on the league – and are continuing to do so. Jones has the third-most career sacks among active players with 112.0 and Crosby finished first in the league in tackles for loss last season with 22.

One thing the new coach wants his unit to embrace is how mindest truly fuels output on the field. It's a strategy he believes they can learn from studying the greats of all sports, like with the Kobe Bryant film this past week.

"I don't care whether it's a sport, whatever it may be, somebody that's passionate, hungry, wants to be the best at what they do, those are the people I want to be around," Leonard said. "Those are the people I want to coach."

"It's fun to coach at a place where the standards are high and the players know what to expect every day."

Crosby will undoubtedly help continue to elevate those standards and production as he has since he was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, recording a career-high 12.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and 36 QB hits en route to his second Pro Bowl nod in the 2022 season.

Entering Year 5, the defensive end wants to embody his status as a veteran. He's focused on not only helping those around him grow and keeping them accountable, but finding improvement within himself.

"This is what I want to do," he said on a recent episode of Raiders Roundtable. "This is my legacy. I feel like God put me on Earth to play football and be an example of overcoming adversity. I truly believe this is just the beginning for me. I feel like I'm going to take a whole 'nother step this year."

"I want kids to look at me and be like, 'Yeah, I want to play like Maxx Crosby,'" he added. "That's the No. 1 compliment."

Take a look inside Intermountain Health Performance Center at the best shots from day three of mandatory minicamp.

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