Pro Bowl snub leaves Indianapolis Colts star Darius Leonard ‘heartbroken’

INDIANAPOLIS — He spent his Victory Monday surprising a diehard Colts fan at work, his Tuesday morning donating 100 bicycles to the Dillon County Department of Social Services, his Tuesday evening Googling what it meant to be a Pro Bowl alternate.

About that "alternate" …

“I’d say heartbroken is the right word,” says his wife, Kayla.

After the calls came, first from GM Chris Ballard, then from coach Frank Reich, Darius Leonard sat there stunned. Confused. Angry. The player with the most tackles in football – the most by a rookie in his first 13 games in league history – hadn’t earned a spot in the Pro Bowl? How was this even possible? It had been a goal of his from the start of the season, and he wanted it. Instead Leonard was left seething, soaking in a sentiment he knows all too well: disrespect.

“Nothing new for me,” the Colts rookie linebacker said Wednesday. “Been overlooked my whole life.”

He’s right. It’s where his edge comes from, that unmistakable rage he plays with on Sundays. Leonard was the lanky teenager who’d jog to his high school weight room before the sun came up, the college phenom from the small school whose skills weren’t supposed to translate at the next level, the second-round pick who was labeled a reach from Day 1. Instead he’s become one of the best defensive players in football, the impetus behind the Colts’ sudden and surprising defensive revival.

And yet … no Pro Bowl. One-hundred forty-six tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two recoveries, seven pass deflections, an interception … and no Pro Bowl.

“On a scale of 1-10, how mad are you?” Leonard was asked Wednesday.

“20,” he blurted out.

On that note, good luck to the New York Giants on Sunday.

“Fuel to the fire,” Leonard called it.

But forget the Pro Bowl for a minute. Forget the snub. Most striking about Leonard is how utterly unfazed he’s been through the whirlwind that has been his rookie season. He remains the “yes sir, no sir,” unfailingly polite, country kid he’s always been, the one who never turns down an interview and hasn’t stopped to notice he’s well on his way to NFL stardom.

“I honestly don’t think it’s clicked with either one of us,” Kayla says of her husband’s budding fame.

“We’re still in disbelief I’m even in the NFL,” he adds.

PRO BOWL SNUBS: Luck, Leonard among notable omissions

STANDOUT ROOKIE: The rise — and rage — of Darius Leonard

'NOW YOU'VE GOT TO RESPECT MY NAME: Pro Bowl carries weight for Ebron, Nelson

Exhibit A: Earlier this week, on a trip home to tiny Lake View, S.C., Leonard caught up with his old high school baseball coach. When that coach mentioned there was a Colts fan in town who’d love to meet him, Leonard didn’t think twice about it. He made it happen.

Travis Fox got the call two hours before his shift was supposed to start at a Kia dealership in Florence, S.C. a half-hour away. “Get your (expletive) to work,” a co-worker told him over the phone, “there’s someone here who wants to meet you.” Next came a deep voice with that unmistakable Southern drawl.

“Hey Travis, this is Darius Leonard with the Indianapolis Colts. Where you at?”

“I was like, ‘Holy (expletive)!” says Fox, a native Hoosier from New Castle. “I didn’t even lock my front door. Didn’t put on a belt, didn’t put on deodorant. Drove 90 miles an hour down the highway. I get there and he’s standing in the showroom, waiting for me. He was so nice. He shook my hand, posed for photos, did a video with me. Zero ego whatsoever. It was the best Monday I’ve had in a long time.”

Source: Read Full Article