“Colts Nation will always remember The Maniac’s palpable energy on the field with every tackle, interception, punchout and fumble recovery,” said Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay. “Off the field, he is a servant leader and has helped many families in his hometown and throughout the Indianapolis community. We are grateful to Shaq and the contributions he has made to our organization. We wish him, as well as to his beautiful family, all the best for the future.”
Leonard, a three-time first-team AP All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and 2018 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, underwent two procedures in 2022 to resolve a nerve problem during and appeared in only three games the last season. He returned for 2023 and started nine of the Colts’ 10 games, but was limited to playing primarily on first and second downs.
In 2023, Leonard was on the field for just under 70 percent of the Colts’ defensive snaps; Before his surgeries, Leonard played more than 95 percent of the Colts’ defensive snaps.
The Colts selected Leonard with the 36th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the South Carolina State product made an immediate impact. Leonard set a Colts record with 163 tackles in 2018 and added two interceptions, four forced fumbles, 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. Leonard had five interceptions in 2019 and led the NFL with eight forced fumbles in 2021.
“Shaq is the ultimate competitor and has been a fan favorite since arriving as a rookie in 2018,” said general manager Chris Ballard. “We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to the team and the city of Indianapolis over the past six seasons. We wish him the best and he will always be a valued member of the Horseshoe.”
But while earning his third AP All-Pro nomination in 2021, Leonard battled ankle pain all season, wryly describing his ankle as “tied up” when asked how it felt. He underwent the first of his two procedures in June 2022 and returned for the Colts’ fourth game of the season, but suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the next three games. Leonard appeared in two more games before undergoing season-ending surgery in November.
In nine games in 2023, Leonard has 65 total tackles and two tackles for a loss.
“I am grateful for the energy Shaq brings to our team on a daily basis,” said head coach Shane Steichen. “He is a competitor, a leader and is respected among his teammates. I wish him the best.”
Leonard was nominated for the Colts’ 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year and the Ed Block Courage Award.
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