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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Darrick Forrest, SAF, Cincinnati

Could Forrest fit in the Colts’ defensive backfield?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 29 UCLA at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site, or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.

Our next prospect interview is with Cincinnati safety Darrick Forrest. We had a great conversation about Cincinnati’s historic season, his play as a ballhawk in the secondary, and his future role in the NFL.


Background

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 200 pounds

Class: Senior

Forrest is a former three-star recruit out of Walnut Ridge High School in Columbus, Ohio. He made an impact immediately at Cincinnati, appearing in all 12 games as a freshman, playing defensive back and special teams. His true breakout year came in 2019, though. As a junior, he was named a First Team All-AAC selection and led his team in tackles with 106. He finished his career with the Bearcats with 200 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 6 pass deflections, 6 interceptions, and a fumble recovery.

Forrest was a leader for the Bearcats defense during their remarkable season in 2020 and was invited to participate in the College Gridiron Showcase this offseason.

ZH: This was a great season for Cincinnati as you all were consistently in the top ten rankings and on Sportscenter daily. How was this whole crazy ride for you as a senior?

DF: I just felt like it was an honor to be on a team that.... I feel like the last few years, this team has built a program that is going to be tremendous going forward. I think they can even get into the playoffs in the near future. It was an honor just to be part of that program and even be a Captain on that team. I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life.

ZH: What did it mean to you to be a Captain for this football team?

DF: It meant everything to me. It meant that my teammates looked up to me, and they saw me as a captain and a leader. It is not easy being a leader but I stepped up to the challenge and my team had a great year. I felt like it was something I can keep doing, even at the next level, and it is something I will carry throughout my career.


Athleticism

ZH: I’m going to flashback a little bit here but I promise it goes with a point I’m about to make. You played a lot of sports in high school from track, basketball, and football. Was that to keep you more well-rounded or were other teams more calling for you and your speed?

DF: I would say a little bit of both. I know my speed helped me when it came to track, and especially on defense when it came to basketball. I’m a well-rounded person. You won’t see me stand out too much in one area, I like to succeed in everything.

ZH: The reason I bring it up is your speed on the back end. I love your range as a safety. How much does that athleticism help when it comes to playing safety?

DF: I feel like it helps me a lot, especially against the receivers in our conference. Receivers are very fast and very athletic and you have to be able to match that. Me having the ability that I have allows me to play with confidence and fly around to make plays.


Film Study

ZH: I love the range you have, and speed is obviously the key factor in it. What else goes into having great range as a safety?

DF: Film study is something that is tremendous and important, especially for a safety. You are basically the quarterback of the defense. You make the checks and calls back there, and you basically have to go off of what you see. If you are not seeing the right things, then you are not going to play fast. Film study is what helped me stand out as a safety in our conference.

ZH: Yeah, you definitely stood out in college. You had six interceptions in your college career, which means you were a ballhawk. How does a safety become a ballhawk on the backend?

DF: A lot of people say defensive backs can’t catch, so you gotta have that mentality that if you wanted to, you could go out there and play offense and snag some balls. I feel like I gotta have that mentality where when the ball goes up in the air, it’s mine. It comes back to film study too because if you are seeing things quicker, you are able to break faster and be in a better position to make plays.


Playing with James Wiggins

ZH: You formed a great safety duo with James Wiggins the past few years. How much easier does it make your life playing alongside a player like him?

DF: It makes my life way easier. It doesn’t just translate on the field either, it translates off the field. We watched film together, worked out together, competed against each other— I feel like having a safety like that next to me, it elevates my game. It makes me see where I need to be and we can both correct each other if we make mistakes. You can just go out there and play more sound when the guy next to you knows what he’s doing.

ZH: You guys were certainly a top duo in the country last year. Hopefully, you end up in the same spot right?

DF: Yeah, man. Give us another run. We will change a whole defense around.


NFL Outlook

ZH: What is my team getting when they draft Darrick Forrest?

DF: They are going to get a guy who has great character. I don’t have any mistakes off the field, I have a clear record. I am a leader and I’m a guy who is always going to put the team’s interests first. I’m going to do what is best for the team and do whatever I can for my team to be successful.


Final Thoughts

Forrest is a talented safety prospect who is being a bit underrated in the process right now. He may not have matched his 2019 production in 2020 but he has the athleticism and ball skills to be a value pick on day three.

I could certainly see the Colts taking him on day three of this draft with their need at backup safety. He could fill that role well and even develop into a starting-caliber player in the league. Overall, I like the film and character of Forrest and think he is certainly a valuable player to be had on day three of this draft.