“Chomping At The Bit” is a new series dedicated to recognizing Colts players making a difference on and off the field. This first piece features rookie Colts Safety Nick Cross.
Colts General Manager Chris Ballard is known for drafting extremely athletic players with high character and elite football knowledge. From his intelligent scouting at the Senior Bowl to the NFL Combine, Chris Ballard does his homework. It should not surprise anyone that rookie Safety Nick Cross landed on the roster. Cross has been turning heads in training camp and preseason.
Early Intel Changed His Trajectory
Cross decided to forego his senior season at Maryland and declared for the 2022 NFL Draft. Of the early touch points players can have with teams, the NFL Combine provides ample opportunity. Cross ran a blazing 4.34 forty-yard-dash, the fastest among all Safeties and that caught the eye of the team. Ballard says on a consistent basis how much he loves athletic players with a knack for finding the ball.
Cross met with current Defensive Backs Coach Ron Milus, former Area Scout Mike Derice, and Chris Ballard, at the combine, in a formal setting, to talk in depth and to break down film. Shockingly, Cross was still on the board in the third round and the team traded up to draft him with the 96th pick after the staff confirmed to Ballard that if taken in the 2023 draft, Cross would be a first round pick.
Former Maryland football safety Nick Cross ran an official 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. The time marks the fastest of a safety at this year's combine.pic.twitter.com/rtrERGlvJG — Lauren Rosh (@lauren_rosh) March 7, 2022
The Scouting Report Stands Out
The intrigue with Nick Cross starts with his mind. Cross is described as a “film junkie” and during his time at Maryland, he would often be found in the wee hours of the night reviewing film in the team facilities. Mike Derice, who was critical in bringing Cross to the team, also heaped high praise on the rookie. “He’s 6-1, 215 pounds and has incredible range and ball skills. And was also physical at contact. And that’s a hard combination to have at the safety position because there are some guys who are great ball skills and not-so-great tacklers.”
If you were to ask Nick Cross what he personally brings to the table and he highlights his ability to play sideline to sideline, to understand the run game and simultaneously wreak havoc, and match up well against Tight Ends and Slot Receivers because of his speed and athleticism.
How can you not want to draft @TerpsFootball S Nick Cross ( @Nick_Cross26 ) after hearing this…. pic.twitter.com/T2ACWDSeht — Good Morning Football (@gmfb) March 9, 2022
The Proof Is In The Early Pudding
Nick Cross has adjusted quickly to his new role and is making his presence felt. On the first day of Training Camp, Cross intercepted veteran quarterback Matt Ryan over the middle of the field in seven-on-seven play. In his first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, he stopped Running Back James Cook in his tracks, a nod to his ability come to the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays.
In the preseason game against the Lions, one play in particular stands out. Cross anticipates the throw, drives towards the ball, and make a great play to knock the ball away and prevent a score in the red zone. This is exactly what the teams wants to see out to their young player.
#Colts Rookie safety Nick Cross (Maryland) Cover 2 vs. the 7 route. Anticipate the break. Drive on the throw. And play the ball. Good rep here — in the red zone. pic.twitter.com/qjiopBktfP — Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) August 24, 2022
Nick Cross is a stud at the safety position and is settling in nicely with the secondary. Expect great things from the former Maryland player and don’t be shocked if he finds his way into Defensive Rookie Of The Year conversations.