Meet Max and Hunter, Matt Leinart’s Furry Wide Receivers. Everyone knows that beneath even the toughest exteriors, there lies a soft spot. Football player and humanitarian, Matt Leinart is definitely a tough guy but he reserves a soft spot for his two four-legged canine companions, Max and Hunter. After graduating from the University of Southern California where he was an all-time leader in career touchdown passes and completions, the 2004 Heisman Trophy recipient got his first dog, Max, a stubborn yet cheerful bulldog. After his son Cole was born, Leinart added Hunter, a scrupulous German shepherd to serve as both protector and companion to his expanding team. One of People Magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful People in 2006, the 6’5’’, 250 pound quarterback for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals enjoys big things: big career, big goals, big yard, big dogs, and indeed, a big heart. “I believe puppy love is out there. I believe there is someone out there for everyone”… even if that “someone” has four legs and fur.
AF: Max is adorable! Was it love at first sight?
ML: I bought him right after I got out of college. I actually went to a pet store. Usually, you’d go to a breeder but he was only five pounds. He was the cutest little dog so I was just… I had an impulse and I got him. He is my buddy. I have a real son, my baby boy, but Max has kind of been my son out here, too.
AF: Describe his personality… does Max take after his “Dad”?
ML: He has got a mind of his own. He is very stubborn. They say bulldogs are very stubborn but the cool thing about him is that he follows me wherever I go. He sits at my feet and he is tough as heck; he can take a beating. I am pretty stubborn myself, actually, but he is more stubborn. He won’t let you play with him and all that stuff. He is a good dog though: he is very low maintenance. He sheds a little but he is fun; he just makes you very happy.
AF: Max is a common name for a dog. Did you choose his name for any particular reason?
ML: I was going to name him Maximus after Gladiator and then Max just stuck. He looks like a Max to me.
AF: Does Max remind you of any football players you know?
ML: A football player has a “short man’s” complex. Max reminds me of a player who’s maybe 5’9 but really stocky, strong as an ox, and really stubborn. He’s small but doesn’t take crap from anyone but at the same time, he could get his butt kicked. Max would be like a linebacker. He would be a tough guy that would go tackle and jump all over people.
AF: Sort of like former Detroit Lions running back, Barry Sanders?
ML: Barry Sanders is fast and would just try to run away from you. Max will come after people if he was a football player.
AF: What breed of dog would you describe yourself as?
ML: A German shepherd. I believe that they are one of the smarter breeds. They can be big, strong, very protective and territorial but they can also be very nice. They are nice around kids and people but they are also very protective of their family. That is something that I would want to be. I could also be a Rottweiler, who are kind of the same way. I love Rottweilers. I was close to getting one, a third dog for the house, but that would be too much for right now.
AF: What made you decide to get a Shepherd and how did you come up with the name Hunter?
ML: He is a beast; he is a hunter. He was either Hunter or General. I actually named him General for a month but I didn’t like it so I changed it. I wanted to get his type of dog for protection for my son and the house. He is just a good guard dog. He is just aware of everything. He is still young. He is 10 months old.
AF: If Hunter was a football player, what position would he play?
ML: He is probably another type of linebacker, like Ray Louis. Like one of those big beast linebackers that are just dominant; because he is dominant, but he is cool. He would be cool on the field, but off the field you wouldn’t want to mess with him.
AF: You seem like a pretty tough guy but it seems that you show a softer spot with your dogs. Do you sleep with them at night?
ML: No. I have tried to sleep with Max a few times. He’ll lay right next to the bed the whole time, but he snores badly. Hunter is too young. Once he is fully trained, he’ll be in the house. I’ve got him practicing to lie right in front of my son’s room at night.
AF: Of the two, who is the better player?
ML: Hunter is good at fetching and he is the also the better catcher. He’ll bring it back to you. Max doesn’t bring it back. Hunter is more fun in a way because he is more active. Hunter will run around with you and wrestle. Max wants to be with you and follow you but for the most part, Max is kind of like, minding his own.
AF: Do your dogs help you train for the season?
ML: Well, I am doing obedience training with Hunter. They always get enough exercise in the back [yard]. They just run around. Hunter will have something in his mouth and the other dogs will want it. He is smart, so he will run and they will try and get him but they never do. We take him out and run around without a leash. You just have to be careful when other dogs come by.
AF: So what happens at the end of the day after a long practice? What do you do? Do you hang out with your dogs?
ML: Yeah, I play with them in my front yard. I’ve got a big front yard. It’s nice and they run around. I also play with them in the backyard. I will play catch with Hunter. He can’t swim so he doesn’t go near the water but I can throw Max in the water every once in a while and he will swim back to the shallow end. They are my two puppies so they need attention and I give it to them.
Both Max and Hunter provide endless hours of fun and safety to the Leinart household. The dogs have become quite accustomed to their own lavish lifestyle: an ample-sized personal yard, dog park, and lake as well as all of the love and attention they could ever desire. One could say that Leinart works like a dog but with Max and Hunter around to shake up the rigors of training and a physically grueling season, the Cardinals’ rookie is as smart on the playing field as he is when choosing companions for life.