All-Pro Linebacker Darius Leonard Announces Name Change

By Jason Hall

July 26, 2022

Las Vegas Raiders v Indianapolis Colts
Photo: Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard will go by a different name in 2022.

The three-time All-Pro said he wants to be referred to as "Shaquille Leonard" while speaking to reporters during the Colts' first day of training camp on Tuesday (July 26).

"I went by Shaquille my whole life," Leonard said via ESPN. "My mom called me Shaquille, my family called me Shaquille, my friends and family called me Shaquille. I only went by Darius in school or if I was in trouble. Once I got to the NFL, that's when people started calling me Darius. I hate it, but coming in as a rookie, I figured they didn't want a rookie coming in saying to call him a different name. So, I just went with it."

Leonard said that Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss told him the best advise he could give was to "keep your mouth closed and your ears and eyes open" when he came into the league, so he never corrected people who called him Darius instead of Shaquille.

Leonard has emerged as one of the NFL's brightest defensive stars since winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 and acknowledged that it may be difficult for fans to get used to the change.

"I went by Shaquille my whole life and I understand that it’ll be a hard change to be called Shaquille after being called Darius for 4 years," Leonard tweeted on Tuesday. It’s not a huge deal and it wouldn’t be no hard feelings if you called me Darius. Shaquille is my middle name that I’ve went by since 95."

Leonard began camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing back surgery last month and provided more details about his condition, revealing that the two disks in his back were impinging on two nerves, which caused pain in his lower-leg.

Leonard had previously undergone ankle surgery ahead of the 2021 season to fix a "calcification" in the joint, but the pain lingered through the last season.

"Now we've found the source of the whole problem and we'll be ready to rock and roll," Leonard said via ESPN.

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