When Presbyterian College began de-emphasizing football after the 2017 season, one of the casualties was All-Big South cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who transferred to Temple.
It worked out pretty well. The Owls went 8-4 and accepted an Independence Bowl bid against Georgia Tech. Ya-Sin intercepted two passes and broke up 12 others. In his final season at PC, he had five interceptions.
Now, little more than a year removed from PC, Ya-Sin is almost certain to be chosen on the first day of the National Football League draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay, in his mock draft, predicted that Ya-Sin will be picked by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 25th pick of the first round.
Online draft analyses suggest that the cornerback who played three years at Presbyterian will be one of the first two cornerbacks chosen. They universally praise his “physicality,” consider footwork his chief weakness and predict him to excel in man-to-man coverage.
How did PC get an athlete such as Ya-Sin? Ex-head coach Harold Nichols, who recruited him, pointed out that he never played football at Southwest DeKalb, his Atlanta-area high school, until his junior year. He was a star wrestler who quickly became a star at football, but he flew enough beneath the radar to draw Presbyterian’s attention, and vice-versa. It was the Blue Hose’ modus operandi (“the way something operates or works”) in many instances back when they had scholarships to give.
Come to think of it, it may be even more the modus operandi now that they don’t have scholarships.
Nichols, now PC’s Director of Major Gifts, has recently fielded several calls from NFL scouts who tracked down Ya-Sin’s former coach for background information on their potential acquisition. Nichols said on Friday that the Denver Broncos had shown particular interest.
Nichols said Ya-Sin is comparable in many ways to Justin Bethel, another Presbyterian cornerback who was a sixth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2012. Bethel, renowned for his play on special teams, played six seasons for the Cardinals, then signed with the Atlanta Falcons. On Friday, Bethel signed a contract to play for the Baltimore Ravens next year.
“Away from the field, Rock is a quiet, thoughtful young man,” Nichols said. “He is a dedicated Muslim. When we had devotionals before games at PC, Rock would just get up and quietly leave the room. I asked him about it, and he said he just wanted to be respectful of his teammates’ religion without dishonoring his own.”