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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Rookie seasons that already had gained notice have been taken to another level.

Linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Quenton Nelson have been selected first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. The only other time rookie teammates were chosen was in 1965 when the Chicago Bears’ Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus – each members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – were recognized.

The only Colts’ rookies to be named first-team All-Pro were Edgerrin James (1999), Milt Davis (1957) and Alan Ameche (1955).

Along with their obvious talent, Leonard and Nelson injected something more to a franchise on the rebound from last season’s 4-12 finish.

“In both cases they bring a lot of juice into the meeting room, into the weight room,” Frank Reich said. “They have infectious leadership qualities. Their love for the game, their love to compete at the highest level I just think is very infectious and you just love their confidence to be able to just let that loose.”

General manager Chris Ballard was adamant he was looking for the proper blend of talent, character and leadership abilities when he used the sixth overall pick in the April draft on Nelson and the 36th overall selection on Leonard.

“One of the things that Chris and his staff do when they are doing all the research on these guys . . . they are marked in a certain way where we would designate them or identify them as the kind of Colts players,” Reich said. “These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for, all the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them.

“It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way, and both Quenton and Darius had that on their card.”

Nelson started all 16 games and was on the field for all 1,136 offensive snaps. His acquisition was instrumental in the Colts’ offensive line transitioning from one of the NFL’s least effective to one of its most efficient. It allowed a league-low 18 sacks this season after yielding a league-high 56 in 2017.

Along with bringing undeniable talent to the offensive line, Nelson brought leadership and a nastiness.

Like Nelson, Leonard established himself as a difference-maker from the outset. Despite missing one game with an injury, he led the NFL and set a team record with 163 tackles. He added 12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, 9 defended passes, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

Leonard’s 163 tackles are third-most in NFL history for a rookie.

The All-Pro nods are the latest honors for Nelson and Leonard.

Nelson was selected to the Pro Bowl and named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. Leonard was AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December, Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, AFC Defensive Player of the Week for weeks 2 and 17, and NFL Rookie of the Week for weeks 2 and 8.

Leonard is considered a front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51