Another multisport star joins secondary
Showing an apparent preference for multisport athletes to refill a depleted defensive secondary, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson grabbed cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night.
Rollins, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound fifth-year senior from Miami (Ohio), played college basketball for four seasons with the Redhawks before using his final year of NCAA eligibility to play football.
"I had really been itching to get back into (football) around my sophomore year of basketball when I knew the coach that recruited me was going to retire," Rollins said. "I didn't really have anybody to really help me make that transition, so I stuck with basketball, finished my education and my career and then it just was a matter of the two worlds meeting up again.
"The opportunity presented itself and I got a chance to meet Coach (Chuck) Martin, who had just come from Notre Dame and he just basically gave me a spring ball tryout to earn a scholarship and I went out there and earned it. That's how that came about."
Rollins is the second defensive back the Packers picked in the first two rounds of this year's draft after selecting former college baseball player Damarious Randall in the first round Thursday night. A year ago, Thompson drafted cornerback Demetri Goodson, who played three seasons of basketball at Gonzaga before transferring to Baylor to play football.
Rollins, like Goodson, was a basketball point guard. In his only season on a college football field, he made a big impact with seven interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
"You know, when I spoke with him at the combine, I was very pleased with his knowledge with only playing one year," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. "I was pleased. He was further along than guys that have been playing a long time. He's a smart kid. So I was happy with when I gave him the test and the quiz, he performed really well."
Rollins ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and is viewed as a fluid athlete who will need work on his technique.
"It's more of the football knowledge is what we have to work with," Whitt said. "The skill set part of it, all these guys played basketball. They play basketball every day between workouts."
When asked what traits translate from the basketball court as a point guard to the football field as a cornerback, Rollins pointed to the lateral quickness and ability to keep players in front of him.
Green Bay director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst added that it's "spatial awareness, the ability to play the ball with your back to it a little bit. He's got great ball skills, the ability to go up and extend and catch the ball, those kinds of things."
The Wilmington, Ohio, native was the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in his only season of football, adding 72 tackles, four tackles for loss, nine pass breakups and one forced fumble to his seven interceptions.
That followed three straight seasons of being named Miami's basketball defensive player of the year. He finished his basketball career second on the school's all-time steals list with 214.
Rollins and Randall join a Packers defensive secondary room that lost two of its top three cornerbacks — Tramon Williams and Davon House — to free agency this offseason. Rollins and Randall will battle Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Goodson and Tay Glover-Wright for playing time across from starter Sam Shields. Hyde and Hayward have experience as the extra defender in the nickel subpackage.
"He's a corner but he could easily play safety," Gutekunst said. "If you see him, he's built really well, he's a very good tackler, he's a physical player. He could do either. When the coaching staff gets their hands on him, I think those things will be decided."
When asked what it tells a scout when an athlete transitions from one sport to another in college, Gutekunst pointed to mental toughness.
"I think it tells you one thing, he can go through the ups and downs," Gutekunst said. "He's not a quitter. That tells you one thing.
"It would have been easier to say, 'Hey, maybe I can go try to play basketball overseas or do this or do that.' But he let it have time because he knew he was talented enough. That's what it shows."