This is another lesson in sports that you should never take anything for granted. Team success cannot be sustained forever. Player banners on the sides of stadiums will change. Players that were once seen as unmovable franchise cornerstones can be unceremonious released. If the Indianapolis Colts can walk away from Peyton Manning, no one is safe.
On Tuesday, the Colts made the decision to release Shaquille Leonard. That decision caught many off guard. Some figured it would happen at the end of the season. Some thought he didn’t deserve to be a starter on defense. Some thought he deserved better than this. Whatever the fans thought, even Leonard himself may have been caught off guard.
#Colts LB Shaq Leonard says he met with the coaching staff yesterday was told he would be inactive going forward. Today he was waived.— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) November 21, 2023
Going from inactive for the season on Monday to released 24 hours later had to be a shock to Leonard’s system. Then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe this was the goal all along. Leonard has been public with his dissatisfaction over his current reduced role on the team. On one hand, that type of dissatisfaction should have been kept behind closed doors instead of spouting to the media every chance he got. On the other hand, how could you not be dissatisfied if you are Leonard? He went from an All-Pro “Maniac” tackling machine who forced turnovers at will to a player that you barely knew if he was on the field or not. Behind Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed, Leonard became the forgotten man.
That has to be hard for a defensive captain and leader on the team. Being reduced to a part time player after being “the man” is rough. It is the life of professional athletes, however. Someone is always waiting to take your place. Nevertheless, it is tough. Yes, Leonard wasn’t the same player pre-injury that he is today. He isn’t as explosive and isn’t seemingly in on every play. The nerve injury took a major toll on his body. He just couldn’t make it back to form.
I had the opportunity to meet Leonard at an autograph signing at the mall a few years back. I have been to a few for other players, and he had to be one of the best. He actually looked at you and spoke to you. He was kind, gracious, and took compliments and well-wishes with humility. Leonard the man continues to be great as evident by his participation in handing out turkeys to the local community even after his release.
#Colts LB Shaq Leonard joked that he felt like Craig from the movie “Friday” since he got cut on his day off, but he still showed up to pass out turkeys to the Indy community for Thanksgiving.— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) November 21, 2023
“I’m all about giving back. Through tough times, good times, no matter what it is.” pic.twitter.com/EGm72Y0J7n
Sure, he gets to walk away with millions from the Colts, but if you were fired from your job, would you still show up at a voluntary event through the organization? I doubt I would. That shows what type of person Leonard is, and it is the reason Colts fans respected and loved him. He didn’t reach the ultimate greatness he wanted on the field with the Colts, and that is a shame because he deserved to. What can’t be taken away though is his greatness as a human being. Best of luck to you Shaq.