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The Indianapolis Colts figured Darius Leonard would emerge as a defensive playmaker one day.He skipped the learning curve.Two weeks into his rookie season https://www.coltsfanshop.com/Le_Raven-Clark-Jersey , the weakside linebacker leads the NFL with 27 tackles, already has forced one fumble, recovered another, had a sack and provided a new, dynamic dimension in the Colts rebuilt defense.When we came here, there were only one or two guys (at linebacker), defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said Tuesday.He was kind of thrust into that position and we treated him as such. Hes grabbed that role, taken it and hes done a good job with it.Just how impressive has the 6-foot-2, 234-pound, 23-year-old been?Leonards 18-tackle performance Sunday at Washington was the fifth-best grade by a linebacker since Eberflus implemented his points system in 1995.Some view Leonards immediate impact as a surprise, but he was pretty impressive in college.Leonard set the career record for tackles (394) at South Carolina State Khari Willis Jersey , a Football Championship Subdivision school largely overshadowed by the states more prominent programs at Clemson and South Carolina as well as Furman, the 1988 FCS national champions.Twice he was selected as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and Leonard got his nickname Maniac following a 19-tackle performance against Clemson in 2016. The knock on him going into the draft was he needed more size and strength to hold up in the NFL and time to make the transition from small-school star to NFL contributor.Colts general manager Chris Ballard saw it differently after watching Leonard for one week in Mobile, Alabama, in January.You always want to watch the small school guys when you go to the Senior Bowl because now theyre facing the bigger competition, Ballard said after making Leonard the first of Indys four second-round draft picks in April.I thought he stood out. His speed, his athleticism, his ability to cover. When the four backers went, we thought Darius was the fifth-best backer in the draft.Leonard certainly has played like it.Despite missing all but one day of offseason workouts, Leonard returned to the field when the Colts rookies reported in late July and made a quick impression on the veterans.I think it was pretty much the first time you saw it, the first practice of training camp when he caught the interception off of Andrew Luck, second-year linebacker Anthony Walker said.First of all http://www.coltsfanshop.com/Bobby-Okereke-Jersey , thats a big-time quarterback there and that was a big-time play. We knew right there 鈥?thats why we drafted him.Leonard continued playing well during the preseason and his ability to stay healthy allowed him not only to win a starting job, but also the right to call the defensive signals in the huddle.So far, hes flashed the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and deliver game-changing ones, too.But Leonards best attribute might be his attitude.Hes eager to clean up mistakes, remains humble and enjoys breaking down game tapes.Thats hardly a surprise from someone who helped decipher prep games so he could help coach players at his high school while he was in college.I just work hard and just take coaching, he said. Thats the big thing, I take all the coaching I can get, follow all the details and do all the little things.Its made a huge difference in one of the leagues most inexperienced linebacker groups.Leonard, Walker and free-agent signee linebacker Najee Goode have combined for 12 NFL starts 鈥?exactly half coming during the first two weeks this season.And, so far, Leonard has been the star with back-to-back memorable performances that have surprised the doubters but nobody in the Colts locker room.As a rookie Parris Campbell Jersey , its hard to find someone like that 鈥?someone who prepares the way he prepares. The things that he does really sets him apart, Walker said.Hes miles ahead of where I was last year and just the confidence and stuff he plays with, hes miles ahead of me. The retirement of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has exposed a divide between players and fans. Its a schism that may have been hiding in plain sight for years, but Lucks decision to pack it in 15 days before his teams regular-season opener shines a floodlight on that disconnect.Steelers guard David DeCastro, a teammate of Lucks at Stanford, offered on Monday this assesment of the boos that Luck heard after news of his retirement prematurely leaked, via Gerry Dulac of the : Its just sad. People treat us like were circus animals.DeCastro can relate to Lucks decision to retire after only seven NFL seasons.I talked to him the other day, DeCastro said. His life . . . its been tough. I dont think people understand how hard it is on the body and mind. When you play the game, you know how hard it is. He did it the right way and was very professional about it.Lucks rollercoaster of injuries began in 2015, when he was limited to seven games. He played through a shoulder injury in 2016, missed all of 2017 http://www.coltsfanshop.com/Ben-Banogu-Jersey , and then returned for the full 2018 season, winning the Comeback Player of the Year award.Plenty of fans believe that paying the price for tickets (and for the stuff that gets sold at a premium at most stadiums) and/or taking the time to watch games on TV gives them a birthright to boo and/or to piss and/or to moan about anything and everything related to NFL players on their favorite teams and/or their fantasy teams, from whether theyre injured to whether theyre retiring to whether theyre performing well enough to whether they care as much about winning and losing as the fans do.They often cross the line, but the same passion that stirs bad behavior fuels the golden goose. Without true and zealous engagement from fans, the sport doesnt generate the money that it does. That doesnt make it right for fans to act like jerks, but its not always simple to separate the words that hurt feelings from the deed that line pockets.
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