“Colts Nation will always remember The Maniac’s palpable energy on the field with each tackle, interception, punchout, and fumble recovery,” Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay said. “Off the field, he’s a servant leader and assisted numerous families in both his hometown and the Indianapolis community. We’re thankful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization. We wish him and his beautiful family the best moving forward.”
Leonard, the three-time first-team AP All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and 2018 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, underwent a pair of procedures in 2022 to address a nerve issue during and only appeared in three games last season. He returned for 2023 and started nine of the Colts’ 10 games, but was limited to primarily playing on first and second downs.
In 2023, Leonard was on the field for just under 70 percent of the Colts’ defensive snaps; prior to his surgeries, Leonard played over 95 percent of the Colts’ defensive snaps.
The Colts selected Leonard with the No. 36 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 in 2021 led the NFL with eight forced fumbles.
“Shaq is the ultimate competitor and has been a fan favorite since he arrived as a rookie in 2018,” general manager Chris Ballard said. “We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to the team and the city of Indianapolis over the last 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 nod in 2021, Leonard battled ankle pain all season, wryly describing his ankle as “attached” when asked how it was feeling. He underwent the first of his two procedures in June of 2022, and returned for the Colts’ fourth game of the season, only to sustain a concussion that sidelined him for the next three games. Leonard appeared in two more games before undergoing season-ending surgery in November.
Over nine games in 2023, Leonard totaled 65 tackles and two tackles for a loss.
“I’m thankful for the energy Shaq brought to our team on a daily basis,” head coach Shane Steichen said. “He’s a competitor, a leader, and is respected among his teammates. I wish him all the best.”
Leonard was the Colts’ 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year and Ed Block Courage Award nominee.