INDIANAPOLIS – One more for the haters.
One more for everybody who doubts you.
If you are up early enough in the morning, and listen closely, you might just hear The Maniac yelling that to finish off a workout.
That’s Darius Leonard for you—the All-Pro Bowl linebacker who will look everywhere to find that grain of motivation (and I would know).
Many have told Leonard to stay away from social media, but he can’t help it.
Not only is Leonard on social media, he is going to find you if you are calling him out.
“Some people can get complacent with what they’ve done,” Leonard explains. “Me, I’m always on Twitter. I look for every bad comment. I look for everybody just talking trash to me. Because if someone out there is talking trash about me that means I’m not doing enough. So I have to continue to go out, put my best foot forward, no matter what.
“I have to continue to go out each and every week to prove that I can be the best linebacker.”
This offseason, knowing how his client operates, Leonard’s agent reached out to his wife (Kayla) for more motivational tactics.
It included these customized cleats, pointing out the snubbed 2018 Pro Bowl that still pisses Leonard off, those who seriously questioned Leonard being chose with the 36th overall pick in ’18 and a rather blah Madden rating of 85 for a player with Leonard’s resume.
Leonard isn’t a huge fan of flashy looking cleats, so he might not wear these in the regular season, but you better believe he eats up the messages on them.
While some will caution those in reading social media, Leonard says his ability to take those negative comments and channel it into his work, is a healthy trait of his.
“I don’t care if someone talks down to me because I’m just going to use it as fuel,” the third-year linebacker says. “That’s who I am. I’m going to show the world, ‘I see what you’re saying. And I’m going out to prove that I can do what you are saying I cannot do.’
“I will never shy away from it. I will never stop going on Twitter to see that because at the end of the day, I’m at the top level of playing football and sometimes you can get complacent. As long as you have someone who is continuing to say negative things, continuing to badly rank you, no matter what, I need that. And it’s going to give me that drive so when I can come to work, it’s like, ‘I have to put that Maniac mentality on, take zero plays off and I have to play every play like it’s my last play. I feel like if I ever shy away from that, shy away from the media, that’s when I say, ‘Okay, I’m here. I’ve made it.’ I haven’t made it. I’m not a Super Bowl champion, not an MVP or any of the other things on my list that I need to cross off.”
Heading into 2020, Leonard has a list of 15 goals, knowing full well it would be nearly impossible to cross off every single one of them.
Atop the list are Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, Regular Season MVP.
Individually, some of the numbers for this season include 200 tackles, 15 sacks and 10 takeaways.
Conceptually, Leonard wants to have a better knowledge base this season of the running back he’s going up against each week. He wants to be better at the point of attack.
Last year, becoming a better pass defender was at the forefront of Leonard’s mind. Well, he led all NFL linebackers with 5 interceptions and his passer rating allowed went from 94.7 as a rookie to 62.8 last season.
Leonard’s ability to recognize what he needs to improve, and then correcting those things is what will continue to place him among the NFL’s elite.
While those doubting Leonard are a little easier to find given the accessibility of social media, the South Carolina native still vividly remembers what he was told as an underachieving high school baseball player.
“I remember 10th grade year, playing baseball and I wasn’t the greatest coming up,” Leonard recalls. “It was after practice and I’m putting in extra work after practice and one of the assistant coaches came up to me and said, ‘Your dad is good. And your dad is fast. What the hell happened to you?’
“Ever since then, I told him, ‘I never want to hear those words again. So I’m going to grind and use it as a motivation.’
“Now, every time I see him I say, ‘I’m never going to hear those words again.’ So hopefully I can continue not to hear them.”
Yep, haters are motivation to The Maniac.