Colts' Darius Leonard Opens Up About Mental Health, 'Fell out of Love' with Football

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 5, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 06:  Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts and AFC returns an interception for a touchdown against the NFC in the first quarter of the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on February 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-35.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard spoke about his mental health in a recent chat with reporters, noting in particular that he "fell out of love" with football and that he "wasn't enjoying" the sport anymore.

"In this profession, sometimes you feel like you don't have a say so in your personal life just because it's all football, all football," Leonard said, per Nate Atkins of the Indianapolis Star.

"When you feel like you have to hold a shade up on your personal life because of your football life, it eats you up."

The 2021 campaign was another great season for Leonard, but he told reporters he faced challenges toward the end of the year and immediately afterward.

“For me, it was more mental. Last year, I wasn’t in the right mental space to hold everybody accountable," Leonard said.

"I felt like I let the team down in that aspect in the last two games."

The Colts needed one win in their final two games to make the playoffs after defeating the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Day. However, they fell at home to the Las Vegas Raiders before losing to the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars in the final week.

In the midst of all that, Leonard dealt with numerous hardships, per Zak Keefer of The Athletic, including his father and sister getting sick, the death of a cousin, a recurring ankle injury and his own bout with COVID-19.

After the season, Leonard got away from football for two months to work on himself.

"Had to work on me as a person," he said, per Keefer.

Leonard also wrote a letter to himself, per Atkins.

"Dear mental health: First off, I would like to say that you are one tough guy to fight," he wrote. "But each day, I continue to fight. Each day, I continue to go to war. And each day, I continue to win this battle against you."

Leonard also imparted an important message to all in his press conference, per Atkins:

"I ask everybody how they’re doing. Sometimes it's OK to ask me how I'm doing. Don't ask me just to ask me. Ask me to truly have a conversation with me and to understand that I'm a human, too. I have problems. I go through things that a lot of people are going through."

Leonard is a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who amassed 122 tackles and eight forced fumbles last year.