Leonard is predicted so as to add management duty in 2021 Sports activities
Darius Leonard has always been an early riser.
He was up at 4:30 a.m. most days this off-season and at 5 a.m. at his Tampa, Florida gym – Yo Murphy Performance -. His workday ended at 10 a.m.
“I’ve always said that I like to eat while everyone is sleeping,” said Leonard on Tuesday during a video conference with local media. “Then you never have to share what’s on your plate.”
It’s no wonder the three-time all-pro linebacker turned out to be perfect for the Indianapolis Colts’ relentless defensive style. Defense coordinator Matt Eberflus is all about effort and now, more than ever, Leonard is being asked to help set the standard.
It was an off-season of change in Indianapolis. A new starting quarterback (Carson Wentz), a new left tackle (Eric Fisher) and two highly regarded rookie pass rushers (Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo) have been added. But middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr.’s departure has largely flown under the radar.
Walker was one of Leonard’s closest friends on the team, a veteran leader who held teammates accountable on and off the field. Its loss will be felt to a significant extent throughout the 2021 season.
“You are losing a great leader – a great leader, a great teammate and a great friend,” said Leonard. “When a defense loses someone like that, it hurts. He was one of the biggest guys in the locker room, mostly for teaching the boys the playbook because as you said, especially when the newbies walk in, you need someone to lean on and Anthony Walker was that to me. It sucks for him, but now other people have to step up.
“Other people have to have conversations about what the standard is, or tell someone you’re doing it wrong, it has to be. I have to stop being that friendly guy, stop being that guy who just smiles all the time and just does it the way he wants. “
It’s a big season for Leonard.
Colt’s owner Jim Irsay has made a strong point of warning that a contract renewal is near and even predicts it will take place before training camp begins. Leonard is happy that the franchise is seeing its worth, and he’s optimistic about the potential business. But he doesn’t put any extra pressure on his shoulders.
Leonard has always been a source of energy for Indianapolis. His boundless enthusiasm shows every day and this comprehensive approach is unlikely to change significantly.
The biggest changes will take place behind the scenes.
Walker was an advocate of detail with exceptional intelligence. He saw things on tape that others didn’t see and asked the questions that others didn’t think they were asking. It’s a role Leonard – who served as a part-time coach at his high school in Lakeview, South Carolina during his college off-season – is ready to accept.
“Usually it’s Anthony Walker or (linebacker colleague) Zaire Franklin who asks the question that some linebackers don’t understand or really see when they watch movies,” he said. “Now I have to really take a closer look at the tape and really ask questions that they don’t even think about. Whenever it is time to go into the game or into practice and do that, it’s already covered.”
Leonard is always looking for new challenges. He will create them if he has to.
The only visitor to his early morning training sessions this off-season was Devonta Smith, a recipient from Alabama. The Heisman Trophy winner and Philadelphia Eagles tenth draft pick share Leonard’s work ethic, and the linebacker was dying to compete against the rising young star.
He plans to do the same with rookie teammates Paye and Odeyingbo. Leonard believes in a system where players push each other and the resulting competition makes everyone better.
“I’m setting a good example,” he said. “When the (starters) go out, I’ll give everything I have. I’m full of energy out there. I’m pushing everyone, and when you see them go out there and do that, you know the twos or whoever is going to follow suit. Because they don’t want to be the one called.
“So, I mean, they know the standard, they see the standard, and they know that if they want to get out and play in defense of the Colts, they have to be the standard.”