GREEN BAY – Quinten Rollins had taken four years off from football but thought his first day back would be just like riding a bike.
He almost didn’t get back in the saddle for day two.
“The first day was definitely rough,” Rollins said, referring to his debut at spring football practice at Miami of Ohio last year, his first football action since high school after four years on the basketball court.
“Me being the competitor I am, I expected to go out there and do the same things I was doing on the high school field. That didn’t happen.”
In time, enough happened for Rollins to become the Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year in his one season of college football. On Friday night, the Packers made the cornerback their second-round draft pick, making it two corners in two picks for Green Bay in 2015.
“The chatter picked up pretty quickly in the fall,” said Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ director of college scouting, of scouts’ interest in Rollins. The first Green Bay scout to see him was John Wojciechowski.
“He really improved as the season went along. He was probably their best player in week two of the season, and the guy had only played since the spring.”
Rollins went on to intercept seven passes last season, most in the MAC and third most in the country. His ball skills stood out on film throughout the year.
“Whatever rust he had he shook off pretty quick,” Gutekunst said. “He’s a very natural athlete.”
Rollins didn’t turn back to football on a whim. A two-way player as a prep, he thought about returning to the gridiron during his sophomore basketball season at Miami. He didn’t get serious about it until his four hoops years were done, and he was given an opportunity to earn a football scholarship for a fifth year.
A point guard, Rollins feels the defensive skill of keeping players in front of him and the offensive trait of seeing the whole floor help him on defense in football. He knows it won’t translate that simply to the NFL, though.
“I’m not coming in thinking I’m polished in one area over others,” he said. “I need to work on my ball skills, everything from A to Z.”
He’ll have a top-notch tutor in cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. to push and develop him. Whitt helped Sam Shields become a starting corner despite playing only one year at the position in college, and last year Whitt took on Demetri Goodson, a sixth-round pick also making the transition from basketball, like Rollins.
Whitt met with Rollins once at the scouting combine and was impressed with his football smarts, especially given his time away from the game. That was the only contact Rollins said he had with the Packers in the pre-draft process, so he hadn’t really gauged the team’s high level of interest in him.
“Corner is a hard position to play as a rookie,” said Whitt, who will have Rollins and first-round pick Damarious Randall under his wing now. “I’m confident I’ll be able to get them up to speed.
“We have a lot of work in front of us, and I understand the challenge in front of myself and this group.”
Rollins rose to a major challenge a year ago. Another one awaits.
“It tells you he can go through the ups and downs. He’s not a quitter,” Gutekunst said. “It would have been easy to try to play basketball overseas, do this or do that, but he knew he was talented enough.”
Additional draft coverage - Day 2