Star linebacker Darius Leonard has been the heart and soul of the Indianapolis Colts defense since coming into the league in 2018. But Tuesday saw the young linebacker announce a notable change.
Leonard revealed on Tuesday that he would like to be called Shaquille instead of Darius. Shaquille is his middle name and the name that he has reportedly been called by those close to him throughout his life.
Darius Leonard said he’d like to be called Shaquille, which is his middle name and the one he grew up with. He never wanted to say anything about it until just now.
— Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) July 26, 2022
According to Colts team reporter Larra Overton, Leonard has been called Shaquille by his family since he was young. But he was hesitant to correct those who called him Darius early in his career, citing some advice from Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss for why he didn’t make a big deal of it.
.@dsleon45 explains preference of being called “Shaquille” vs “Darius.”
Growing up family called him by middle name, Shaquille.
Coming in as rookie he heeded advice of @RandyMoss – “keep your mouth closed, keep eyes & ears open.” So he was hesitant to correct anyone earlier.
— Larra Overton (@LarraOverton) July 26, 2022
It definitely makes sense that Leonard didn’t want to be vocal about his name preference early on in his career. He came into the NFL as a second-round pick in 2018 out of South Carolina State, an FCS school that isn’t typically seen as a NFL talent pipeline.
But Leonard has shown to be among the best defensive players in all of football throughout his four-year NFL career. He’s already made the Pro Bowl three times, while showing a knack for takeaways that have greatly impacted the Colts’ defense.
Leonard on his own had eight forced fumbles along with four interceptions in 2021. That was a huge reason that the Colts were second in all of football in turnovers forced last year.
Given his production on the field, Colts fans should have no problem with going with his preference of being referred to as Shaquille moving forward.