(Photo courtesy Penn State)
While Troy Apke is still somewhat new to the safety position, the Washington Redskins rookie believes he can provide playmaking ability on special teams to start his time as a professional.
While safety Troy Apke was a productive player throughout his career at Penn State, he became a household name during the 2018 NFL Combine after running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash.
It was the fastest time amongst all safeties in this year's class and drew rave reviews including one from Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders who joked that "he can run, run!"
"I got the call from the War Room or something there and they pass the phone around to everyone in there. And [they] just said, 'Congratulations, we're taking you in the fourth round,' and they asked me if I run a 4.34 still. And I said, yes, and they said, 'Alright, we're taking you,'" Apke said.
On top of his blazing 40 time, Apke easily had the fastest 20-yard shuffle time of the safeties, clocking in at 4.03 seconds. The next fastest safety logged a 4.12.
But Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes Apke is much more than just an athlete, even if he's still relatively new to playing the safety 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.
"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."
Apke first joined Penn State as a wide receiver before making the switch to safety. In 44 career games with the Nittany Lions the 6-foot-1, 200 pounder collected 111 tackles along with six passes defensed, two interceptions, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered.
During his senior season in 2017, Apke earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as he set career highs in total tackles (55), solo tackles (36) and passes defensed (five).
"I'm aggressive," Apke said when asked to describe his playing style. "I think I can get in the box and hit someone. I'm fast. I can cover the field. I just kind of play. I'm tough, that's how I like to play. I won't back down from anyone."
He added that his speed only benefits his attributes as a defensive player and special teamer.
"I'm going to make a name for myself on special teams first, and then after that, just make my way into playing safety there."
Like other defensive backs in recent seasons such as fourth-year safety Deshazor Everett and second-year cornerback Fabian Moreau, Apke believes that he can be a core special teamer to start before potentially branching off into other roles.
"I think it's going to be a big thing," Apke said of playing special teams. "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."