With the Redskins taking off for training camp later this month, Redskins.com will take a deeper look at the new faces of the organization and what we've learned regarding their football and life background.
Today the focus is shifted towards rookie safety Troy Apke.
1. He was originally a wide receiver
Earning first-team Class AAAA All-state and All-Southeastern Conference honors in high school, Apke was recruited by Penn State to play wide receiver. Those plans changed, however, when the Nittany Lions needed pieces to their defensive secondary.
Apke embraced the change and became a force on defense, coming up with 55 stops as a senior. Taking home honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors from the conference's media panel, he helped Penn State cap off the 2017 season with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl.
Although Apke has not played safety for very long, head coach Jay Gruden believes that he is a quality prospect that can be valuable while still improving in the position.
"I think he improved as the season went on, I think he's a very good safety," Gruden said. "He's got great range. You've seen him fill in run support and I think he's going to get better and better. I think the sky's the limit for him as a player. You know, anybody who can run 4.3 – whatever it is, 4.32, I think it was? Short shuttle, I think he's right around 4.0.
"He's still learning the position. He takes good angles to the football and he's not afraid. And he's great on special teams, so it was a win-win not only as a safety but as a special teams player. I think he'll fit right in."
2. He made an impression on NFL scouts
Once his college career concluded, Apke had the opportunity to improve his draft stock by showcasing his abilities in front of NFL scouts. After being selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, the 6-foot-1 safety was named MVP after posting seven tackles, forcing a fumble and grabbing an interception.
At the NFL Combine, the spotlight was on Apke's athleticism and speed. Running a 4.34 40-yard dash and coming up with a 41-inch vertical jump, he was selected in the fourth round by the Redskins with the 109th overall pick.
While Apke had an accomplished college career, it was his performance in front of the eyes of professional football personnel that allowed him to have a better position during the draft.
"You know, it's been a great journey," Apke said. "I came into Penn State as a receiver, switched to safety, had a good career there. The combine, everything was good. I'm just excited right now and, you know, it's a dream come true. It's what I have been waiting for."
3. He makes a difference as a special teams player
Not only did Apke make key contributions on defense, he was also an impactful special teams player for Penn State. After making appearances on special teams during his first three years, the Mt. Lebanon, Pa., native blocked a field goal attempt against Iowa that resulted in 21-19 win for the Nittany Lions.
With the Redskins experimenting on special teams, the coaching staff sees Apke as a possible piece to the puzzle. He has seen looks during offseason workouts and is expected to gain more quality reps with the veterans.
Special teams is a place Apke wants to make a name for himself in the NFL.
"I think it's going to be a big thing," Apke said. "That's what I'm going to make my name on – special teams – there. And then, you know, I played it all throughout college, I played on all four special teams so that will be big for me."
4. He was a standout track star
Apke not only succeeded in football at Mount Lebanon High School, he excelled in track and field. When he was a junior, the safety was a part of a 4x100 relay team that advanced to the state championships.
As a senior, he won the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League 100-meter title with a time of 10.81. At the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships, Apke finished fifth in Class AAAA.
5. He comes from a family of athletes
Athletic ability comes natural for the Redskins' rookie, being the fifth member of his immediate family to compete in college athletics. Apke's father and mother both attended the University of Pittsburgh and competed in football and track and field.
His sister, Chelsea, played basketball at Washington & Jefferson and attained first-team All-PAC and third-team all-region honors. Apke's other older sister, Tess, was a two-time All-NEC selection as a member of Robert Morris' softball team. She earned first-team All-NEC accolades in 2014.
6. He is active in community service
Despite Apke having athleticism and speed, it is his character that stands out the most. His coaches at Penn State thought highly of his upbringing, giving him the Ridge Riley Memorial Award at the annual team banquet his senior season. Sharing the award with teammate Andrew Nelson, it represents "sportsmanship, scholarship, leadership and friendship".
Even though Apke's focus at the combine was to showcase his abilities, he was also concentrating on benefiting those in need. He launched Reps for Rare Diseases campaign and raised money for rare disease research. During his time in college, Apke was involved in the Penn State Chapter, Lift for Life and Uplifting Athletes.
7. He earned a degree before finishing his college career
Penn State's goal for their seniors is to have their graduating players earn a degree before the season ends so they can focus on getting into the pros. Apke was not only able to focus on enhancing his skills for the NFL, he was able to do it already having a degree.
The Nittany Lions headed into the Fiesta Bowl having 21 of their starters who had already earned their degree. Apke walked across the stage at his commencement with a degree in criminology.
Not only did college help shape Apke's academic career, but going up against NFL talent helped him prepare for the next level.
"People like DaeSean Hamilton, going against Saquon [Barkley] every day, people like that, they made our team better and they made me better," Apke said. "We battled every day in practice and that's how it went."