Don’t Doubt Darius Leonard: How the SC State Linebacker Became A 2nd Round NFL Draft Pick

Written by Thomas Scott

July 1, 2018

Darius Leonard is no stranger to doubt. The Lake View, South Carolina native has been hearing those whispers for a while.

After dominating the local high school scene, Leonard was still overlooked by many D1 programs. Critics discredited his staggering numbers by suggesting they were against weaker 1A competition. They even suggested that at 6’2, 180 pounds he was too small to compete at the highest collegiate level.

Despite all of this, Leonard had high hopes of receiving an offer from Clemson University. As a South Carolina kid, Leonard grew up envisioning himself playing in Death Valley. Leonard told ESPN’s The Undefeated:

“My brother played at Clemson, I stayed at Death Valley, I went to camps, I really wanted to go there. It hurt me pretty bad when they didn’t call. They told me in the fall they had a scholarship for me.”

Leonard was understandably upset when Clemson passed, but he didn’t dwell in disappointment. Luckily South Carolina State coach, Buddy Pough did not overlook Leonard. Coach Pough has a knack for player development. Since his arrival at South Carolina State in 2002, Pough has won six MEAC Conference championships.

All Leonard needed was an opportunity and people genuinely invested in his development. Through hard work and dedication, Darius Leonard became one of the most dominate defensive players in South Carolina State history. The 6’2, 180 pound freshman transformed into a 6’2 234 pound tackling machine. Leonard was named the back to back MEAC Defensive Player of the Year (2016 & 2017) and is the all-time leading tackler in school history.

Phil Savage, the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, said:

“Darius is an ideal modern-day linebacker because of his speed and athletic ability.”

The Indianapolis Colts agreed with Savage and selected Darius Leonard with the 36nd pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Yet and still, Bleacher Report named the Darius Leonard selection one the worst picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Don’t think Darius is going to let a little doubt get to his head, he’s used to proving doubters wrong.

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