Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable once said, “After you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” If he truly believes that statement, he probably hasn’t seen Indianapolis Colt CB Rock Ya-Sin’s football journey.
A two-time state wrestling champion, Ya-Sin dominated in his early years. Excelling at Southwest Dekalb High, he received scholarships from schools like Virginia Tech, Virginia, Chattanooga, and North Carolina State. But as much as he succeeded at wrestling - it just wasn’t the sport for him.
Rock Ya-Sin said he didn't start playing sports until he started wrestling in eighth grade.— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) April 26, 2019
He won two state titles.
It's really hard to catch up that quick in wrestling and dominate.
Starting to play football in 11th grade, Ya-Sin slowly developed his skills to the point where he ended up getting 3 collegiate offers. Hampton, Tennessee State, and Presbyterian. Not quite as prestigious a list as his wrestling scholarships - but he was determined to make it work. He eventually committed to Presbyterian.
The smallest FCS school in the country (roughly 900 students), it wasn’t easy for Ya-Sin to make himself noticeable on a national stage. Over three years, however, the CB did enough to attract the attention of bigger schools. Showing off the work ethic and unrelenting attitude that made him a successful wrestler, Ya-Sin converted some of his techniques from the ring to the turf - and admitted as much himself.
“It definitely helps,” Ya-Sin expressed. “Just the competitive nature of going out there and going against a guy. There are no excuses. You can’t blame it on anybody: win, lose or draw. It’s you versus another man. I take that same mentality in one-on-one (coverage) in man-to-man coverage against a receiver.”
Unfortunately given its small size and limited funding, ahead of Ya-Sin’s 4th and final season, Presbyterian announced they would stop giving scholarships. The news also meant they would be leaving the Big South Conference to play in the Pioneer League starting in 2021. Although they planned to honor existing scholarships (like Ya-Sin’s), the news caused plenty of athletes to transfer - and Rock did the same. It was a blessing in disguise, however, and allowed the CB to latch on to Temple for his Senior year. On a bigger stage (or should I say ring?), the expanded platform allowed Ya-Sin to get the attention of the NFL.
WR Deebo Samuel vs. CB Rock Ya-Sin has been the best 1-on-1 match-up this week. Both have several wins.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2019
The ball placement (QB Tyree Jackson) was off, but Ya-Sin was all over this route/throw. pic.twitter.com/gavT3Q9sAA
Using his 12 games in Pennsylvania to the best of his capabilities, Ya-Sin totaled 12 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions, and 47 total tackles in his lone season with the Owls. Showing off physicality, scrappiness, and superb ball skills, the corner looked every bit the part of a legit NFL Draft prospect - and scouts agreed. He did more than enough to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama - where once again he took advantage.
Dueling with top WR’s like Deebo Samuel at the event, Ya-Sin wasn’t perfect - but no defensive back in attendance was. The competitive wrestling background showed, and he always wanted reps against the top prospects in attendance - even if they didn’t always have the best of results. His impressive performance and unrelenting drive eventually inspired Indianapolis to take him 34th overall.
Best name in the draft?— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) April 26, 2019
CB Rock Ya-Sin is a Colt pic.twitter.com/8j3uvrSCdU
So far in training camp, the rookie has been slightly inconsistent - but extremely impressive. It’s a matter of when - not if - he takes over a starting job on the outside. His opportunistic nature and man-on-man skills are simply too good to keep on the sidelines, and it looks like defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus agrees.
(Via USA Today) “I think Rock is doing outstanding,” Eberflus told reporters. “I think when you have techniques that you’ve learned in college and played for a few years, you’re always going to adjust to the pro game or whatever system you’re going into. He’s done a great job.”
Despite the praise, Ya-Sin isn’t letting it get to his head. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder from coming out of high school and not being heavily recruited,” Ya-Sin expressed. “Going to Presbyterian College, the smallest FCS school in the country with 900 kids. So, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder. That’s just me.”
Ultimately, Ya-Sin wrestled with his sporting decision for quite some time. He made a risky decision siding with football, but all indications are that it’ll turn out to be rock-solid for the emerging CB.