Darius Leonard Proved Everybody Wrong, Twice
First things first, we’re not Colts fans. We’re HQed in Indianapolis and we happen to meet some athletes on occasion. Sometimes those athletes give us the inspiration for a better story than what we see on the field.
After Darius Leonard was drafted by the Colts last spring, we heard, read, and watched a little combine film. Cool pick, Colts. Whatever. Then we met him…
We had three words come to mind: Chip. On. Shoulder.
Then we had a fourth: Underdog.
When Leonard was in high school down in Nichols, South Carolina, he had his sights set on Clemson – a program with a history and an appetite for budding superstars. Leonard’s brother Anthony Waters was a Tiger in 2005-2006. It was his dream to go there, and they never called.
In fact, no school from a Power 5 conference gave Leonard a chance, and he rolled into South Carolina State in 2013 instead.
In 2016, Clemson won the National Championship. That season, Leonard won the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) Defensive Player of the Year.
Throughout the draft process, Leonard fought a familiar battle as he attempted to grab scouts’ attention. He slid into the 2nd round before the Colts scooped him up. Clemson had passed on him and now 31 NFL teams had, too. Mistake.
This storyline – one about Leonard’s ability to channel that bitterness into action on the field – has been widely reported. It’s seeing it in person that scares you into thinking he’s a Hall of Famer in the making.
Now, Leonard is terrorizing ball carriers. The Colts aren’t having a very good year, but this little known rookie from the MEAC leads the NFL with 63 tackles (as well as four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a 19-tackle game against the Redskins).
When it’s all said and done, he might just be the greatest defensive player to don the horseshoe helmet. And nobody wanted him.