Rock Ya-Sin Brings Swagger, Height To Colts Cornerback Group
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INDIANAPOLIS – The trade calls were coming, but Chris Ballard couldn’t say no to his board.
The board had Rock Ya-Sin, a wrestler turned cornerback, staring back at Ballard.
Seemingly always a willing fan to trade back in the draft, Ballard could have moved down (again) and risked Ya-Sin falling to him, while adding another pick in the rounds of the draft that the Colts GM thought had tremendous value in 2019.
But the greed of risking that was too much.
We can’t pass on Rock.
"We had action, we had a chance. That was a really good discussion,” Ballard said about the debate on whether to move back from the 34th selection in the second round of the 2019 Draft. “Rock was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and he was great all year…and then you stack on his character, his competitiveness, his will to win, it just fit us. I kept telling our guys, ‘Look we move (back) and we pass this guy that we love and we don’t get him, we are going to be regretting it.’
“So at the end of the day we end up picking a guy we loved.”
Outside of opposing receivers being guarded by No. 6 in a Temple uniform last season or former wrestling opponents in the state of Georgia, many people love Ya-Sin.
In becoming the Colts’ highest drafted cornerback since Marlin Jackson in 2005, Ya-Sin’s journey did not go down some 5-star recruiting path in playing college football at the highest of levels.
Ya-Sin was first a wrestler in high school, and a damn good one at that. He was a two-time Georgia state champion, capturing individual titles at 145 pounds, and then again in the 152 weight class.
But his football career only began because he had some time to kill waiting for his mom to pick him up from school.
The boredom, and some advice from his wrestling coach, led to Ya-Sin taking part in spring practice with the football team going into his junior year.
It did not take long for Ya-Sin’s wrestling traits to translate to the gridiron.
“Wrestling, it’s a team sport, but it’s a lot of one-on-one matchups,” the 6-0 and 192-pound Ya-Sin now explains. “(It’s) the same thing in football. It’s a team sport, but a lot of times you are asked to be one-on-one with a guy and you have to beat that guy. And not being afraid to be one-on-one because when you wrestle 150 matches in high school, one-on-one versus another opponent, you’re not afraid to stand in front of a guy and play man-to-man or stay in the zone and go one-on-one and tackle the running back.”
The hand-fighting in wrestling has helped Ya-Sin as a corner, and he views a takedown on the mat just like making a tackle on grass/turf.
With limited football experience in high school, Ya-Sin spent the first three years of his college career at tiny Presbyterian, an FCS school in South Carolina.
When Presbyterian scaled back on scholarships entering the 2018 season, Ya-Sin moved on to Temple, thanks to connections with their coaching staff.
It didn’t take long for Ya-Sin to make an impression, as a player, and a leader.
Temple hands out single digit numbers to their toughest players. Ya-Sin became the first transfer to ever earn one.
On the field, Ya-Sin lived up to the honor.
According to The Athletic, Ya-Sin was the only cornerback in college football last year to be targeted more than 50 times and not allow a single completion of 20 yards or longer.
Colts area scout Mike Derice’s first visit to Temple in August of 2018 quickly introduced him to the player that some 8 months later, his team took with their first draft pick in 2019.
“He has a lot of swagger,” Derice says of Ya-Sin. “He’s a talker.
“What we hope that he is, is that guy who brings everyone up. He’s going to work hard. Whether he’s the first string or fifth string, the level will never change (his work ethic). I think that will affect everyone else around him.”
The appeal of finding a taller corner, with a strong background in man coverage, coupled with such a presence was too good for Ballard to pass on by orchestrating yet another trade.
Some polishing is needed for Ya-Sin to round out his game in fitting what the Colts want to do and be fully prepared for the large jump in competition, compared to where he was a little more than a year ago.
“The things he is going to have to work on is his zone coverage because he hadn’t done a lot of it, but he’s physical, he’s tough, he’s got ball skills, he’s got instincts,” Ballard says of Ya-Sin. “He’s got all the traits we look for. He’s got size and he’s got good speed.
“We think he’s got all the makings of being a really good corner in this scheme.”