Darius Leonard

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Darius Leonard
refer to caption
Leonard in 2018
No. 53 – Indianapolis Colts
Personal information
Born: (1995-07-27) July 27, 1995 (age 24)
Nichols, South Carolina
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High school:Lake View
(Lake View, South Carolina)
College:South Carolina State
NFL Draft:2018 / Round: 2 / Pick: 36
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 2, 2019
Total tackles:181
Forced fumbles:4
Fumble recoveries:2
Player stats at NFL.com

Darius Leonard (born July 27, 1995) is an American football linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the South Carolina State Bulldogs and was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Colts. In his rookie season, Leonard led the league in tackles and was named a First-Team All-Pro and Defensive Rookie of the Year; he was also voted into the NFL Top 100 the following offseason.

College career[edit]

Leonard led SCSU in tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2014, compiling 86, 14 for loss, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He posted 70 stops the following year (2015), 13​12 of those for loss, with five sacks and two interceptions to earn a first-team all-conference selection as a redshirt sophomore.[1] After the 2016 season, Leonard was named the MEAC defensive player of the year, making SC State the first school to win the award four years in a row.[2] Leonard finished the season with 124 tackles, 14​12 tackles for loss, 3​12 sacks, two interceptions, three pass break-ups, and four forced fumbles. He had an impressive game against ACC powerhouse Clemson, totaling 19 tackles. Leonard saved his best for last, as he posted career highs in total tackles (113) and sacks (8​12) as a senior while picking off two more passes and forcing one fumble. His 73 solo tackles in 2017 put him in the Top 10 in the nation, and 4​12 of his sacks came in his final two games.[3] He also won the MEAC defensive player of the year award again after the 2017 season.[4]

Professional career[edit]

On November 20, 2017, it was announced that Leonard had accepted his invitation to play in the 2018 Senior Bowl.[5] On January 27, 2018, Leonard played in the 2018 Senior Bowl and recorded a game-high 14 combined tackles (five solo) as part of Bill O'Brien's North team that defeated the South 45–16.[6] Leonard's performance at the Senior Bowl immensely helped his draft stock.[7] Leonard attended the NFL Scouting Combine, but was unable to complete all of his combine drills after injuring his quadriceps while running his 40-yard dash. He completed the bench press, 40-yard dash, 20-yard dash, and 10-yard dash at the NFL Combine. On March 20, 2018, Leonard participated at South Carolina State's pro day and performed the rest of his combine drills. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Leonard was projected to be a second or third round pick by NFL draft experts and scouts. He was ranked as the sixth best inside linebacker prospect in the draft by NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. and was ranked the seventh best outside linebacker by DraftScout.com.[8][9]

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 2 in
(1.88 m)
234 lb
(106 kg)
34 38 in
(0.87 m)
10 14 in
(0.26 m)
4.70 s 1.69 s 2.77 s 4.63 s 7.37 s 38 in
(0.97 m)
10 ft 8 in
(3.25 m)
20 reps
All values from NFL Combine/South Carolina State's Pro Day[10][8]


The Indianapolis Colts selected Leonard in the second round (36th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.[11] Leonard was the fifth linebacker taken in the draft.[12]

External video
Colts draft Darius Leonard 36th overall
Instant Draft Grade: Darius Leonard

On July 23, 2018, Leonard signed a four-year, $7.24 million contract that included $4.16 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.35 million.[13]

Leonard (center) in a game against the Tennessee Titans in November 2018.

Leonard entered training camp slated as the starting weakside linebacker.[14] Head coach Frank Reich named Leonard the starting weakside linebacker to start the regular season in 2018, alongside Najee Goode and middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr.[15]

External video
Leonard swoops in for recovery after blocked FG
Darius Leonard’s top plays from Week 15
Blaine Gabbert gifts Leonard his first career INT
Darius Leonard’s INT ices game for Indy

He made his professional regular season debut and first career start in the Colts' season-opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and recorded nine combined tackles and recovered a fumble in their 34–23 loss.[16] On September 16, 2018, Leonard collected a season-high 19 combined tackles (15 solo) and made his first career sack on Redskins' quarterback Alex Smith during a 21–9 win at the Washington Redskins.[17] For his performance, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.[18] The following week, Leonard recorded 13 combined tackles (nine solo) and made two sacks on Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz in the Colts' 20–16 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.[19] On October 4, 2018, after totaling 54 combined tackles (which led the league, and was most by a player in first four weeks of the season since 1994) and four sacks (leading all rookies) in September, Leonard was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.[20] Leonard was inactive for the Colts’ Week 5 loss at the New England Patriots due to an ankle injury he sustained the previous week.[21] On November 18, 2018, Leonard made seven combined tackles, one pass deflection, one sack, and his first career interception during a 38–10 victory against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11. Leonard intercepted a pass by Titans’ backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, that was intended for wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, and returned it for a ten-yard gain during the third quarter.[22] In Week 15, Leonard broke the Colts' franchise record for most tackles by a rookie in a single season with 143, in a 23–0 win vs the Dallas Cowboys. In Week 17, Leonard broke the Colts’ franchise record for most tackles in a single season with 163, in a 33–17 win vs the Tennessee Titans. For his performance, Darius Leonard was once again awarded with AFC Defensive Player of the Week.[23] Leonard was awarded the AFC Defensive Player of the Month award for December.[24] He finished his rookie season in 2018 with 163 combined tackles (111 solo), eight pass deflections, seven sacks, and two interceptions in 15 games and 15 starts.[25] Leonard recorded the most tackles among all players as a rookie in 2018. He received an overall grade of 80.3 from Pro Football Focus, which ranked ninth among all linebackers in 2018.[26]

The Indianapolis Colts finished second in the AFC South with a 10–6 record and earned a playoff berth. On January 5, 2019, Leonard started in his first career playoff game and recorded 13 combined tackles (five solo) and broke up a pass attempt during a 21–7 victory at the Houston Texans in the AFC Wildcard Game.[27]


On July 16, 2019, Leonard set lofty goals for himself for the upcoming season. He stated that "I want 200 tackles. I want 10 sacks. I want to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year, I want to be All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP. Just everything with my name at the top of the charts." [28] In Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans, Leonard made 10 tackles and 1 sack as the Colts won 19-17. [29]

NFL career statistics[edit]

Led the league
Bold Career high
Regular season Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
Year Team GP GS Comb Solo Ast Sck PDef Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR
2018 IND 15 15 163 111 52 7.0 8 2 38 19.0 28 0 4 2
2019 IND 2 2 18 10 8 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 17 17 181 121 60 8.0 9 2 38 19.0 28 0 4 2

NFL Awards[edit]

  • NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2018)
  • AP First Team All-Pro (2018)
  • 2x AFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 2, 2018; Week 17, 2018)
  • AFC Defensive Player of the Month (December 2018)
  • NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month (September 2018)

Personal life[edit]

Leonard was one of nine children to a single mother. In middle school two of his older brothers were arrested and sentenced to life for murder. On November 11, 2017, Leonard proposed to his girlfriend whom he had known since middle school after SC State beat Hampton.[30] In December 2018 Leonard announced the couple was expecting a baby girl.

On March 28, 2019, Mia Leonard was born to Kayla and Darius Leonard.

On April 23, 2019, Leonard discovered a stranded Buick car with a flat tire on the road of Lake View, South Carolina belonging to Martha Isbell, who was Leonard's high school biology teacher. Leonard voluntarily replaced the tire to help out.[31]


  1. ^ "NFL Draft & Combine Profile - Darius Leonard". NFL.com. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  2. ^ Cook, Joe (December 7, 2016). "SCSU's Darius Leonard Is MEAC Defensive Player Of The Year". Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State". cbssports.com. March 22, 2018. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  4. ^ "S.C. STATE FOOTBALL: Leonard repeats as BoxToRow Defensive Player of the Year". December 13, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  5. ^ "2 local Carolina prospects accept Senior Bowl invites". pantherswire.usatoday.com. November 23, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  6. ^ Haggard, Mark. "Lake View's Darius Leonard dominates on defense at Senior Bowl". wpde.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Darius Leonard Turns Heads at Senior Bowl". wltx.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "South Carolina State OLB Darius Leonard : 2018 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile". NFLDraftScout.com. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "Mel Kiper's Big Board and position rankings: Top 2018 NFL Draft prospects". abcnews.go.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "NFL Draft Prospect Profile - Darius Leonard". nfl.com. March 1, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  11. ^ "2018 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  12. ^ "Indianapolis Colts Select Darius Leonard with Pick 36 in NFL Draft". StampedeBlue.com. April 27, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  13. ^ "Spotrac.com: Darius Leonard contract". Spotrac.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  14. ^ "Predicting Who Will Start at Linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts". indianasportscoverage.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  15. ^ Andrew Walker (September 4, 2018). "Colts Release First Unofficial Depth Chart Of 2018 Regular Season". Colts.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  16. ^ "Thumbs up, thumbs down: Margus Hunt, Darius Leonard shine, Jack Doyle, Quincy Wilson don't". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  17. ^ "Doyel: A star is born in Colts linebacker Darius Leonard". IndyStar. September 16, 2018. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  18. ^ Knoblauch, Austin (September 19, 2018). "Mahomes, Fitzpatrick among NFL Players of Week". NFL.com.
  19. ^ "2018 Colts Rookie Watch: Week 3". Indianapolis Colts. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "Darius Leonard Named NFL's Defensive Rookie Of The Month". Colts.com. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "Colts' Darius Leonard named NFL's DROTM". horseshoeheroes.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  22. ^ "Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts - November 18th, 2018". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  23. ^ Maya, Adam (January 2, 2019). "Josh Allen, Darius Leonard among Players of the Week". NFL.com.
  24. ^ Baca, Michael (January 3, 2019). "Titans' Derrick Henry among NFL Players of the Month". NFL.com.
  25. ^ "NFL Player stats: Darius Leonard (career)". NFL.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  26. ^ "Pro Football Focus: Darius Leonard". profootballfocus.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  27. ^ "NFL Player stats: Darius Leonard (2018)". NFL.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  28. ^ Reardon, Logan (July 16, 2019). "Darius Leonard sets lofty goals for sophomore season". www.nfl.com. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  29. ^ "Brissett spoils Titans' opener, rallying Colts to 19-17 win". www.espn.com. September 15, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  30. ^ Cook, Joe (November 11, 2017). "Star Player Proposes To Girlfriend After SC State Win". Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  31. ^ "Darius Leonard Stops and Changes Stranger's Tire". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 23, 2019.

External links[edit]