Leonard in 2018
|No. 53 - Indianapolis Colts|
|Born:||July 27, 1995|
Nichols, South Carolina
|Height:||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Weight:||230 lb (104 kg)|
|High school:||Lake View|
(Lake View, South Carolina)
|College:||South Carolina State|
|NFL Draft:||2018 / Round: 2 / Pick: 36|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics as of Week 17, 2019|
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.
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 of those for loss, with five sacks and two interceptions to earn a first-team all-conference selection as a redshirt sophomore. 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. Leonard finished the season with 124 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3 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) 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 of his sacks came in his final two games. He also won the MEAC defensive player of the year award again after the 2017 season.
On November 20, 2017, it was announced that Leonard had accepted his invitation to play in the 2018 Senior Bowl. 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. Leonard's performance at the Senior Bowl immensely helped his draft stock. 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.
|Height||Weight||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
|10 ft 8 in
|All values from NFL Combine/South Carolina State's Pro Day|
Leonard entered training camp slated as the starting weakside linebacker. 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.
|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. 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. For his performance, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. 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. 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. Leonard was inactive for the Colts' Week 5 loss at the New England Patriots due to an ankle injury he sustained the previous week. 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. 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. Leonard was awarded the AFC Defensive Player of the Month award for December. 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. 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.
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.
In Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Leonard recorded 3 solo tackles and 4 assisted tackles and deflected a pass in a 24-30 loss.  In Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans, Leonard made 10 tackles and 1 sack on Marcus Mariota as the Colts won 19-17.  After the game, Leonard reportedly felt concussion like symptoms and was forced to miss the next three games. He made his return in week 7 against the Houston Texans. In the game, Leonard recorded a team high 10 tackles and an interception off Deshaun Watson in the 30-23 win.  In Week 8 against the Denver Broncos, Leonard tallied a game-high 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted, 1 for loss), 1 sack, 1 QB Hit in the 15-13 win.  In Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Leonard recorded 8 solo tackles and 1 assisted in a 24-26 loss, ending his 3-game streak of double-digit tackles.  In Week 10 against the Miami Dolphins, Leonard recorded a team high 13 tackles, sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick once, intercepted a pass thrown by Fitzpatrick, and forced a fumble on tight end Mike Gesicki which was recovered by teammate Kenny Moore in the 16-12 loss.  In Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans, Leonard recorded 12 tackles and sacked Ryan Tannehill twice in the 31-17 loss.  In Week 14, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Leonard recorded 9 tackles and intercepted 2 passes thrown by Jameis Winston, one of which was returned for an 80 yard pick six, during the 38-35 loss.  In Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Leonard recorded an interception off a pass thrown by Gardner Minshew II during the 38-20 loss. 
|Led the league|
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. He is also the younger brother to former NFL player, Anthony Waters. On November 11, 2017, Leonard proposed to his girlfriend whom he had known since middle school after SC State beat Hampton. 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.