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Leonard earns AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honor

- STAFF REPORT

The NFL Sunday announced that Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been named the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year. Leonard is just the third player in team history to win the award, joining Vernon Maxwell (1983) and Duane Bickett (1985).

A rookie out of South Carolina State, Leonard becomes the first non-FBS conference player to win Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year honors since Hugh Douglas (Central State) in 1995. He is the first Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner to lead the league in tackles since Luke Kuechly in 2012. Leonard is also the first Defensive Rookie of Year winner that was drafted outside of the first round since DeMeco Ryans in 2006 (second round, 33rd overall).

In 2018, Leonard finished as the NFL’s leading tackler (163) while adding 12.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, eight passes defensed, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He set the franchise record for tackles in a single season and his tackle total ranks third in league history for a rookie. Among rookies this season, Leonard ranked in the top-10 in tackles (first), tackles for loss (second), sacks (second), passes defensed (ninth), interceptions (tied-seventh), forced fumbles (first) and fumble recoveries (tied-first). He became the first player to register at least 125 tackles, 7.0 sacks and four forced fumbles in a single season since Bryan Cox in 1992.

Leonard was named Associated Press First Team All-Pro this season. He earned numerous other accolades, including AFC Defensive Player of the Month (December), AFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 2, Week 17), Defensive Rookie of the Month (September) and NFL Rookie of the Week (Week 2, Week 8). From the Pro Football Writers of America, Leonard was selected Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-AFC and All-Rookie teams.