By 1911, the team became the strongest football team in Rochester. Leo would not only play, manage and own the team, he would serve as the team's photographer, doctor, field worker, game scheduler, ticket printer, financier and counselor. Leo began paying players out of his own pocket and gave the team new uniforms for an upgrade. By paying the players to play, the Rochester Jeffersons transformed from amateur to semi pro. Leo would recruit one of professional football's first African American players, Henry McDonald. With step 1 completed, he now had to be able to beat the teams from Buffalo and Syracuse, the only other hotbeds of semi pro football in the state. In 1916, the Jeffersons would win the State Championship and be one of the best teams in the state for several more years, dealing with World War 1 and the Influenza Epidemic along the way. He was still controlling the team by himself, no financial support from anywhere else, despite countless meetings with Rochester businesses like Kodak and Bausch and Lomb, who saw no future in a semi pro or professional football business, as did many in Rochester.
Leo contacted the Canton Bulldogs in the Ohio League in 1917, and had talked to Jim Thorpe, their captain, on several occasions via the telephone. Jim Thorpe was the most recognized athlete in the world, already a legend from his Olympic fetes in Sweden, to his track, football and baseball prowess. The two talked about the absence of pro football and the two scheduled a game that season. After a resounding 41-0 loss ( the Bulldogs were by far the most dominate team in the country, just coming off back to back wins of 80-0 and 54-0 against strong teams), Thorpe and Leo talked about forming a pro league, already discussed for years within the Ohio League. Leo's plan was right on track, all three steps completed: his team the best in his city, one of the best in state, and noticed by the "movers and shakers" of football who were looking to start a league. All accomplished by a young man with a full time job at a telephone company, minus support from local businesses or men with wealth.