INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One of the more difficult days in the history of Presbyterian College football proved to be a defining moment for Rock Ya-Sin.
But only he and his teammates dealt with a serious jolt.
The Blue Hose – yes, the Blue Hose – had just concluded the 2017 season and still were coming to grips with 4-7 record that included losing the final two games by a combined 99-14.
Players gathered and were surprised when the school’s athletic director walked in the room and informed everyone the football program was downgrading and joining a non-scholarship conference for ’18.
“I was devastated,’’ Rock Ya-Sin said. “The players were devastated. The coach was devastated.
“It was bad.’’
What to do? Ya-Sin was a junior cornerback and one of Presbyterian’s stars. In an otherwise dismal season, he was a silver lining with a school-record five interceptions. He was first-team All-Big South.
The idea of transferring didn’t cross his mind until his coaches mentioned it.
“They came to me and told me I should probably try to find somewhere else,’’ Ya-Sin said. “They helped me. They sent my film to Temple. They had connections there. That’s how I got the offer.’’
A handful of players followed Ya-Sin’s lead. Running back Torrence Marable transferred to Coastal Carolina and offensive lineman Ralph Singleton to Valdosta State.
Ultimately, Ya-Sin’s decision to transfer to Temple led him to Indy. That’s where he developed into a major blip on general manager Chris Ballard’s radar screen, a second-round draft pick (No. 34 overall) and a prominent figure in the on-going rookie minicamp at the Colts’ Farm Bureau Football Center.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,’’ Ya-Sin said Saturday, “and God blessed me with this opportunity, and I’m trying to take advantage of it.’’
The Colts’ scouting department is loaded and far-reaching. It’s likely Ya-Sin would have at least caught their eye had he remained at Presbyterian. It’s the time-tested scouting truism: if you can play, they’ll find you.
However, performing at a high level at Temple trumps doing likewise at Presbyterian.
Mike Derice, the Colts’ Northeast area scout, noticed Ya-Sin from the first time he saw him at Temple.
“I was like, this guy should have been here all along,’’ Derice said. “He’s built pretty well; sturdy, almost like he’s carved out of stone.
“He came in there and felt like he belonged. He planned on outworking everyone.’’
When it comes to first impressions, Ya-Sin’s was stunning at Temple. He earned a single-digit jersey from the coaches, which designates the team’s nine toughest players.
“We usually have a list of guys that we’re going to go see,’’ Derice said. “He probably wasn’t the highest of the guys on the list, but you walk on campus and you walk on the field and that’s the guy that they spoke about.
“And any time there’s a guy with a single-digit number at Temple, you’ve always got to pay attention to them. Their coaches raved about him more than anybody.’’
Ya-Sin started all 12 games as a senior. He was named first-team All-AAC after compiling 47 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defensed, the latter ranking 14th in the nation.
Owner Jim Irsay said the Colts view Ya-Sin as a starting corner.
Ballard wouldn’t go that far, but insisted the 6-0, 192-pound Ya-Sin “just fit us.’’
The Colts had already traded out of round 1 – from 26 overall to the No. 46 slot in a deal with Washington – and were getting calls to trade back again when they were on the clock with the 34th overall pick.
Ballard resisted the urge. He wouldn’t risk losing out on Ya-Sin.
“I kept telling our guys, ‘Look, we move and we pass this guy that we love and we don’t get him, we are going to be regretting it,’’’ he said. “So at the end of the day, we ended up picking a guy we loved.’’
There figures to be a learning curve with the Colts. At Temple, Ya-Sin was immersed in a defensive scheme that featured man coverage. That suited him in part because of his background that included being a two-time state wrestling champion at Southwest Dekalb H.S. in Decatur, Ga.
The Colts are more zone-heavy.
“Just repetition, coming in and getting the playbook, learning the playbook and then go out there on the field and practice it and get the reps and I will be fine,’’ Ya-Sin said. “It’s a great defense, great culture. (It’s) fast-paced, everybody getting to the ball, playing fast.’’
Ya-Sin was asked if he would have reached this point – a high draft pick for a Colts team on the rise – had it not been for Presbyterian’s decision to change its football status. Would he still have reached the NFL? The only other Presbyterian player to be drafted since 1970 was Justin Bethel, a 2012 seventh-round pick of Arizona.
“I feel like I would have had the opportunity, but I don’t think I would have this opportunity,’’ Ya-Sin said. “Like the Senior Bowl, the Combine, that might not have happened. But I feel like I would have gotten myself into a camp and I would have worked hard and made a name for myself that way.
“It definitely sucked that that happened to the football program there. It did work out for me, but it still did suck that it worked out that way (for Presbyterian).’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.