INDIANAPOLIS — In time, Indianapolis Colts rookie Darius Leonard assures the “Maniac” will show up in the NFL.
For now, the second-round selection just wants to lead by example. The 23-year-old newcomer had a team-high nine tackles and a fumble recovery in Sunday’s debut against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Ask him about being humble and he admits, “Yes, sir, always.”
But he’s always been considered a leader, in high school at Lake View, S.C., and then college at South Carolina State.
“I’d say at first, I’ll be a leader by example until I get very comfortable,” Leonard said Wednesday. “Then that’s when the ‘Maniac’ comes out. He’s rah-rah, love to have fun, go that way.”
Leonard said the NFL stage didn’t overwhelm him.
“It was everything I thought it would be,” he said. “Playing against guys I’ve seen on TV for a couple of years. It was just a great feeling to be out there.”
First-year Colts head coach Frank Reich has said one of the first lessons rookies need to learn is that they belong, and to play with confidence.
That his first game is now in the books, Leonard expects to settle in more.
“I came out and slowed the game down in my head,” he said. “I can play a lot faster. I never get caught in the big stage. I’ve always been that small-town guy and I keep that small-town brain. I never try to make the situation bigger than it is.”
A young Colts defense needs playmakers and leaders. The hope is that Leonard will evolve into just that.
“Yeah, I feel settled in, getting that first one out of the way,” he said. “I’m just trying to stack days on top of each other and get better.”
He particularly likes the idea of playing on a defense with so many other young players.
“Playing with a lot of rookies, it’s pretty cool,” Leonard said.