WESTFIELD, Ind. – Those close to Darius Shaquille Leonard, the Colts' three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker, call him by his middle name. They have his whole life – his mom, family, friends, teammates, etc.
"I love being called Shaquille," Leonard said. "I hate being called Darius."
Leonard wasn't known by those in his life as Darius until he got to the NFL. After he was drafted, folks started calling him Darius, and he didn't want to rock the boat. So he stuck with it, even if he didn't like it.
"Coming into my rookie camp, talking to Randy Moss, he said the best advice he can give me is to keep your mouth closed and your eyes and ears open," Leonard said. "So I came in, I just wanted to work. I didn't want to come in and feel like I wanted to be treated special. If they called me Darius Leonard, that is my name and I just went by without wanting to cause any problems."
So when we talk about the only player in NFL history to have eight forced fumbles and four interceptions in a single season, just to be clear, that player is Shaquille Leonard.
Leonard arrived at Grand Park in Westfield on Tuesday after being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a June procedure on his back. While on PUP, Leonard can attend meetings but will not practice; both he and general manager Chris Ballard said on Tuesday there's no timetable for when he'll get back on the field.
"I'm not putting a timeline on when it," Leonard said. "When I'm ready, I think you'll see me on the field after that."
The procedure Leonard underwent was to alleviate pain caused by two discs sitting on nerves in his back – pain that radiated down his leg, including to his ankle, which he frequently described as being "attached" last season when asked how it was feeling. Leonard wasn't expecting to hear that he'd need back surgery – his back wasn't hurting when he underwent an MRI on it this spring – but he and the Colts feel like they've identified the cause of the pain he's played through.
"We're at the source, and hopefully we can get better from there," Leonard said. "And hopefully we won't have to worry about it again."
Leonard said he's already felt relief in his leg and ankle after the procedure, and while again he doesn't have a timetable on his return, he feels happy with how his rehab is going.
And, remember: This is Shaquille Leonard we're talking about.
"I understand if it's going to be hard," Leonard said, "but I would love if y'all tried to call me Shaquille, or D, or Maniac and not Darius."