All-Pro Colts linebacker prefers to be called Shaquille Leonard, rather than Darius

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WESTFIELD — One of the Colts’ biggest superstars would like to be known by the name he was called growing up.

Darius Leonard prefers to be called by his middle name, Shaquille.

Since he was drafted, his name has publicly been Darius, but teammates and other people within the Colts building have known he prefers to go by his middle name.

“Coming in as a rookie, I figured just go with it,” Leonard said. “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.”

Four years into his career, Leonard is trying to use the name his family has always used.

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“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.”

Leonard, like a lot of young football players, did not want to rock the boat by asking to be called for a different name, although he let teammates know.

“I did know he goes by Shaquille, he told me that his rookie year,” longtime Colts teammate Zaire Franklin said.

Leonard has gone by his middle name, or its shortened version, inside the Indianapolis team facility for years.

"People around the building call him Shaq," Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard said. "Internally, that's happened."

But Leonard did not ask for a change publicly until now because he didn't want the request to be taken negatively.

“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,” Leonard said. “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.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts: All-Pro LB prefers Shaquille Leonard, rather than Darius