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Darius Leonard

Source: Cooper Neill / Getty

Darius Leonard has a new name.

The Indianapolis Colts All-Pro linebacker informed reporters at the start of training camp on Tuesday (July 26) that he wanted to be acknowledged as Shaquille Leonard. Why Shaquille? Because his family calls him Shaquille.

“Coming in as a rookie, I figured just go with it,” Leonard told the IndyStar on Tuesday. “Didn’t want a rookie to come in and start saying he should be called something else, so I just went with it. I love being called Shaquille. I hate being called Darius. I understand it’s going to be hard, but I would love it if y’all would try to call me Shaquille or D or Maniac, and not Darius.”

Shaquille is Leonard’s middle name and those inside the Colts’ facility and teammates have referred to him as such. Now four years into his career, he wants everyone to call him that.

“I went by Shaquille my whole life,” Leonard said. “My mom called me Shaquille, my friends and family called me Shaquille. I never went by Darius, only in school or if I was in trouble. Once I got to the NFL, that’s when people started calling me Darius.”

He added, “Coming into my rookie camp, talking to Randy Moss, he said the best advice he could give me was to keep your mouth closed, and your ears and eyes open. 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, I didn’t want to cause any problems, so that’s the reason why.”

Leonard has blossomed into one of the league’s best players in his four-year career. He’s earned three All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections and was named the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

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