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Hungry Darius Leonard Ready To Bring Speed To Colts' Defense

With a chip on his shoulder coming out of high school, Darius Leonard made the most of his situation at FCS school South Carolina State. Early Friday evening, he was selected by the Colts with the 36th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.


INDIANAPOLIS — Tears of joy streamed down Darius Leonard's face early Friday evening.

His wildest dreams had just come true.

The Indianapolis Colts made the athletic linebacker their first pick of the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting him at No. 36 overall.

Did Leonard see this one coming?

"Oh yeah, this is a big surprise," Leonard said in a conference call with the Indy media. "I mean, initial reaction man, I just had tears of joy. I was ready. I was ready."

As fate would have it, Leonard, a Lake View, S.C., native, likely would've committed to play his college ball at Clemson had it not been for a final pending high school test score coming in a couple weeks after signing day.

Though he could've walked on for the Tigers, Leonard decided to play a couple hours north at FCS school South Carolina State, where he would redshirt his true freshman year before turning in one of the greatest careers in school history, finishing as its all-time leader in tackles.

Oh, and he got his revenge on Clemson, finishing with 19 tackles against the Tigers back in 2016.

A two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and 2017 AP All-American, Leonard proved to be a stat stuffer for the Bulldogs, finishing with 394 career tackles (54 for a loss), 17 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, eight forced fumbles and six interceptions.

Just how would Leonard describe his playing style?

"Athletic, quick [and] fast," he said. "Somebody who is quick and fast and will come downhill and hit you."

That's likely music to the ears the Colts and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who were hoping to add competition and depth at all three linebacker positions as the unit makes the transition to the 4-3 base front this season, in which speed is the name of the game.

"I think in the 4-3 that will free me up a lot and I will be able to run around," said Leonard, who believes he can play all three linebacker spots at the NFL level.

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