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as a defensive playmaker one day.He skipped the learning curve.Two weeks into his rookie season https://www.coltsfanshop.com/Jack-Doyle-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. He’s grabbed that role, taken it and he’s done a good job with it.”Just how impressive has the 6-foot-2, 234-pound, 23-year-old been?Leonard’s 18-tackle performance Sunday at Washington was the fifth-best grade by a linebacker since Eberflus implemented his points system in 1995.Some view Leonard’s immediate impact as a surprise, but he was pretty impressive in college.Leonard set the career record for tackles (394) at South Carolina State, a Football Championship Subdivision school largely overshadowed by the state’s 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 they’re facing the bigger competition,” Ballard said after making Leonard the first of Indy’s 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 Adam Vinatieri Jersey , 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, that’s a big-time quarterback there and that was a big-time play. We knew right there 鈥?that’s 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, he’s flashed the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and deliver game-changing ones, too.But Leonard’s best attribute might be his attitude.He’s eager to clean up mistakes, remains humble and enjoys breaking down game tapes.That’s 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. “That’s the big thing, I take all the coaching I can get, follow all the details and do all the little things.”It’s made a huge difference in one of the league’s 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, it’s 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.“He’s miles ahead of where I was last year and just the confidence and stuff he plays with, he’s miles ahead of me.” NEW YORK — Patrick Mahomes and three other Kansas City Chiefs players made The Associated Press 2018 NFL All-Pro Team on Friday. They were joined by the first rookie teammates since 1965 — Colts guard left Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard.More Packers coveragePhotos of the Week: 7/21/19 – 7/27/19Packers rookie Gary’s biggest critic is himselfTop Tweets: Former Badger TJ Watt has impressive four-year transformationPHOTOS: 2019 Green Bay Packers training campPackers’ Rodgers, LaFleur ironing out offense, building chemistryRams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the only unanimous choice in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.“That’s surreal Marvin Harrison Color Rush Jersey ,” Donald said. “It’s a blessing. Wow! You see the hard work pay off.“A lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches for pushing me and helping me.”Mahomes, Kansas City’s second-year sensation, drew 45 votes at quarterback and was joined by teammates Travis Kelce at tight end, Tyreek Hill as the flex player and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.Nelson and Leonard are among four rookies on the squad, a first for the AP team. Seahawks punter Michael Dickson and Chargers safety Derwin James also made it. The last time rookies from the same team were All-Pros was 1965. And that was not a bad combo: Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, both Hall of Famers.“These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “All the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them. It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way and both Quenton and Darius had that on their card. So that says something about their maturity and how fast we think they will develop.”And already have developed.Chicago also had four All-Pros: edge rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and punt returner Tarik Cohen.Two players made All-Pro for the fifth time: Houston edge rusher J.J. Watt and Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly.“It means a lot to get back to the top level of the game,” said Watt, who missed most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons with major injuries. “Obviously, it’s an extreme honor to be a first-team All-Pro, especially after what I’ve been through the last two years and hearing the things that people were saying and questioning myself at times.“To be able to get back to the top level of the game and know that I still have things to improve on and things that I want to get even better at, it’s exciting.”Brothers also were voted to the squad: Travis Kelce of the Chiefs and Eagles center Jason Kelce.“For me and my brother to both get it, it’s that much more special because I still remember us in the backyard fighting with each other, playing football growing up and we envisioned each other competing at the highest level https://www.coltsfanshop.com/Tarell-Basham-Jersey , competing against the best players,” Jason said. “And for both of us to be recognized as one of those guys is pretty special.”The All-Pro team had a split of 14 AFC and 14 NFC members. There were 16 newcomers: Mahomes; Schwartz; Fuller; Jackson; Cohen; Saints receiver Michael Thomas; Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari; Eagles interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox; Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore; Chargers defensive back Desmond King and special teamer Adrian Phillips; Jets kick returner Andre Roberts; and the four rookies.Players with previous All-Pro honors who made the 2018 team included Donald and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, each for the fourth time; Mack, Dallas right guard Zack Martin and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, each for the third time; Hill; Rams running back Todd Gurley; and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.“I think I really took a lot of pride in leadership,” said Wagner, who got 49 votes. “I knew that was going to be big if we were going to be successful. I knew I was going to have to up my role in that, up my mindfulness in that. I was really conscious of that and just making sure I was, when it came to getting back to the defense I looked at it from a different lens.”Hopkins got the most votes on offense with 46.“This is validation,” Hopkins said. “I feel like these people are the people who actually know football, who study football, who have been around football for years, so do be on this list and to be first team is a great feeling. But it makes me want to work harder and continue to be on that list.”<em>AP Pro Football Writers Rob Maaddi and Dennis Waszak Jr., and Sports Writers Mike Marot, Kristie Rieken and Greg Beacham contributed to this report.</em>
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