Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard wants middle name Shaquille

WESTFIELD, Ind. – The name Darius Leonard has become synonymous with defensive play in the NFL.

But the Indianapolis Colts All-Pro linebacker no longer wants to be referred to by that name.

When Leonard showed up for training camp on Tuesday, he asked reporters to call him Shaquille, which is his middle name and the name most people in his life use to refer to him.

“I’ve been through Shaquille my whole life,” Leonard said. “My mother called me Shaquille, my family called me Shaquille, my friends and family called me Shaquille. I only went through Darius at school or if I was in trouble. Once I got got to the NFL that’s when people started calling me Darius I hate it but coming in as a rookie I thought they didn’t want a rookie come in saying call it a different name. So, I just went with it.

Even after winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, Leonard didn’t express his wishes. Now, as he enters his fifth season, he is finally making his position known.

“Going into my freshman year, talking to [Hall of Fame wide receiver] Randy Moss, he said the best advice he could give me was to keep your mouth shut and your ears and eyes open,” Leonard said. “So I went in and worked. I didn’t want to come in and be treated special. If they called me Darius Leonard, I mean, that’s my name. That’s just what I went [by]. I didn’t want to cause any trouble.

“But I love being called Shaquille and I hate being called Darius. I understand it’s going to be difficult, but I would like you all to try calling me Shaquille or ‘D’ or ‘ Maniac’ and not Darius.”

Leonard starts camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing back surgery in June. He explained his condition for the first time, explaining that two discs in his back impinged on two nerves and, as a result, caused pain in his lower leg. The team had searched in vain for the source of this pain before finally discovering the nerve problem, Leonard said.

Leonard underwent ankle surgery in the 2021 offseason to treat “calcification” in the joint, he said. When the pain persisted throughout the season, Leonard had to play injured.

Now, however, he already feels relieved and is optimistic about the end result.

“Now we’ve found the source of the whole problem,” Leonard said, “and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

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