INDIANAPOLIS – Do not be surprised if Colts players see a little different Darius Leonard in 2021.
Because his running mate is no longer in Indianapolis.
With their lockers side-by-side and their jerseys numbers in the program right next to each other, Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker shared a special bond over the last three seasons.
They started 41 of a possible 48 games next to each other.
Walker, a player that teammates and staff members adore, defined the word ‘professional’ on and off the field.
From a knowledge standpoint, preparing, leading, working, Walker checked all those boxes the Colts covert when it comes to character.
Leonard knows that with Walker now a member of the Cleveland Browns, it’s The Maniac that needs to step up a bit.
That means some more public accountability will be needed from Leonard (i.e. watching more film and helping to teach younger guys the playbook).
“With linebackers, yes,” Leonard says of his own need to be more vocal within the LB room this year. “Because (Walker) was that veteran, that veteran that everybody looked up to. I’m Darius, but Anthony Walker was that guy that everybody leaned on.
“Now that he’s gone, I have to be the one that asks the questions that guys don’t think about. Usually, it’s Anthony Walker or Zaire Franklin that asks the question that some linebackers don’t understand or don’t really see when watching film. Now, I’m really going to have to look at the tape more seriously and really ask questions that they don’t think about. So whenever it’s time to go in the game or in practice, it’s already covered.”
Late last season, Walker’s play time started to dwindle as the more athletic Bobby Okereke began to play more and more.
It’ll be Okereke starting next to Leonard moving forward.
Internally, the Colts believe Franklin can handle a lot of what Walker brought as more of a run-down linebacker, and a strong leader, too.
But they also know that what Walker brought in his Colts tenure—no Colts defender started more games than Walker over the last 3 years.
“He’s a great leader, a great teammate, a great friend,” Leonard says. “For a defense to lose someone like that, that hurts. He was one of the biggest guys in the locker room. Especially when the rookies come in, you need a guy to lean on and Anthony Walker was that for me. For him to go, it sucks.
“But now other people have to step up. Other people have to have those conversations of what the standard is or you’re doing this wrong. This is what it has to be. I’m going to have to quit being just a friendly guy, quit being this guy that just smiles all the time and goes by doing it his way. Now it’s, ‘Hey, that’s not the right way. This is how we do it.’ We have to hold people accountable the right way.”
Seeing No. 53 screaming on the field will not be new, but now he’s going to be using that voice a little more off the field, too.