A few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine where Darius Leonard fit in the Indianapolis Colts’ near future, but after his return from a concussion scare, the linebacker showed just how valuable he can be.
The 24-year-old sealed Sunday’s victory over the Houston Texans with an impressive, tumbling interception with less than a minute to go.
Trailing by seven with just under two minutes to play, the Texans started driving from their own 36. After a pass over the middle to Jordan Akins, the Texans stayed in hurry-up mode, and Deshaun Watson dialed up a deep ball to Keke Coutee. The second-year receiver bobbled the ball and tipped it in the air, and a diving Leonard kept his body under control enough to corral the interception.
And it wasn’t just the game-deciding play, either. Leonard led all players with 10 tackles and added a pass deflection, as he helped lead the 4-2 Colts to their best start since 2014. The man who led the league with 163 tackles last season as a rookie appears to be back again.
Leonard just returned from a concussion scare
Leonard was part of a historic rookie class for the Colts last season alongside guard Quenton Nelson, as he lived up to every expectation and more as a second-rounder out of South Carolina State.
Leonard even picked up 17 tackles, a sack and a pass deflection in the first two games of this season but sustained a concussion that didn't fully set in with him until he went back to the locker room, thinking he was just dealing with the heat. The symptoms did not go away for weeks, which had Leonard unsure if or when he would return.
“The first week, I wasn’t thinking about wife and kids, that stuff,” Leonard said on Monday, via the Indianapolis Star. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ve had a concussion before. I’ll get over it.’ Second week, I was like, ‘Ahh, you know, it’s alright.’ The third week, that’s when I really started thinking, ‘Wait a minute. I got a wife and kid. I’ve had a headache for three weeks now. Will I ever be the same? Do I keep playing?’ I mean, you have those thoughts in the back of your head.”
Maintaining his health will be the biggest key for Leonard going forward. He’s their biggest difference-maker on defense, and the unit will go where he goes come playoff time.
More from Yahoo Sports: