Friday Featured Athlete: Indianapolis Colts Star Darius Leonard
Each Friday, Ultimate Autographs will feature one athlete that is part of the Ultimate Autographs lineup. This week's Friday Featured Athlete is Indianapolis Colts star and the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard.
Leonard attended South Carolina State University and became an immediate impact player for the Bulldogs. He led the team in tackles as a redshirt freshman before earning first-team all-conference honors as a redshirt sophomore. Leonard would add 2 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Awards before declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Congrats to former SC State & current Indianapolis linebacker Darius Leonard for being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.— Reggie Anderson (@ReggieWLTX) February 2, 2019
CBS has this video somewhere. Will they use it? pic.twitter.com/ChhkH3oLhl
Leonard shined in the 2018 Senior Bowl, something he would need as he would be unable to complete all of the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine after injuring his quad during the 40-yard dash.
Darius Leonard is an athletic freak. 😱— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) January 22, 2019
He's only 6'2 btw. pic.twitter.com/asZvKX52xL
The Indianapolis Colts selected Leonard with their second-round pick (36th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. Shedding any doubts on if he was ready for the NFL, Leonard earned starter's role as the season opened up. It would only take two weeks for Leonard to earn national recognition as he compiled 19 tackles and a sack in the Colts' win against the Washington Redskins. For his impressive performance, Leonard was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
VIDEO #Colts Darius Leonard #NFL All-Pro 1st Team ONLY as we combine A QB Driven League w/ MONSTERS Series BDST CLICK https://t.co/Vh9gtFpxhg #ChiefsKingdom #LARams #GoSaints #Colts #Texans #FlyEaglesFly #DallasCowboys #Seahawks #DaBears #FightForEachOther #GoPats #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/jsPtbGsOLV— Bluedude Sportstalk (@BlueDudeSports) January 4, 2019
Leonard continued to shine in the season's opening month, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors. Despite suffering an injury, Leonard managed to break the Indianapolis Colts franchise record for most tackles by a rookie in Week 15. He then would break the Colts franchise record for most tackles in a single season in a 33-17 win against the Tennessee Titans. Leonard once again was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week and earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for December.
All told, Leonard finished an impressive rookie campaign with 163 tackles, eight pass deflections, seven sacks and an interception. He had the most tackles by a rookie in 2018 and received an overall grade of 80.3 from Pro Football Focus, which ranked him ninth among all linebackers. Leonard also led the entire NFL in combined (163) and solo (111) tackles. In just his first season in the NFL, Leonard earned All-Pro honors.
With a league-high 163 tackles, Darius Leonard wraps up the 2018 Defensive Rookie of The Year award! pic.twitter.com/GJYF57qlPk— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 2, 2019
Darius Leonard will be appearing at the upcoming Chicago Sports Spectacular Show. For fans unable to attend or simply want to avoid long lines, Ultimate Autographs is offering pre-order products for all sports memorabilia collectors. Check out the options currently available. Don't see what you're looking for? Contact Us today for more information.
(Article photo provided courtesy of Darius Leonard Instagram)