Forrest Followed Unique Path to NFL

Posted May 16, 2016

Linebacker Josh Forrest didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school, and then switched to LB once he arrived at Kentucky.

Football is the kind of sport many begin playing at a young age — some even when they’re still in single digits. By those standards, Rams rookie linebacker Josh Forrest is a particularly late bloomer.

“I started playing football my junior year of high school when my junior year in high school, after my best friend — he lived with us — decided to go out and play,” Forrest said during rookie orientation.

Forrest had previously stuck primarily with basketball. But there was a simple motivating factor that made him want to take up a new sport that was already in training camp.

“I was home lonely for about two weeks during football season, and I asked a coach could I come out and give it a try,” Forrest said. “He said yeah, [but] that day, I had to come out. So I came out that day, and things just worked out from there.”

Since that decision, Forrest has experienced a positional odyssey. He entered Kentucky as a wide receiver, but shifted to defense during his redshirt freshman year as a hybrid linebacker/safety. From there, he moved to weakside linebacker before settling at middle LB to finish his college career.

“You see it on occasion,” head coach Jeff Fisher said of Forrest’s changes. “But what you’re doing is you’re looking at a guy who is highly athletic. The basketball background and then to football, and then to receiver, and all this. And he’s grown. He’s going to continue to grow.”

That potential is in part why the Rams had their eye on Forrest throughout the draft before selecting him at No. 193 in the sixth round.

“We looked at him — we watched him there for a couple of rounds,” Fisher said. “We were glad he fell.”

Another factor was the impression Forrest’s tape left on general manager Les Snead. The GM pointed to one contest in particular where Forrest took on one of college football’s best-known running backs, Leonard Fournette.

“There’s this really good running back at LSU, No. 7. He had plenty of highlights last year,” Snead said. “But there’s a couple plays in the Kentucky/LSU game [in 2014] where [Forrest] flies back there and really knocks that guy on his back. And that doesn’t happen often.”

By drafting Forrest, Los Angeles made him the latest in a string of solid Kentucky linebackers to head to the NFL. Forrest said he’s talked to Tennessee’s Avery Williamson and Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree a bit, but he mostly seeks the council of Danny Trevathan. Originally a Broncos’ sixth-round pick, Trevathan signed with the Bears as a free agent in March.

Forrest said on draft day that when he moved over to defense, he wanted to model his play after Trevathan because they could both be considered undersized at linebacker. A few years later, they’ve discussed what to expect at the pro level.

“I talk to Danny Trevathan a lot,” Forrest said, adding his advice has included “listen to some of the older guys. Don’t take any crap, but listen. And just get out here and work hard.”

As a sixth-round pick, Forrest’s quickest route to the field is through special teams — a fact he has embraced as part of what he can bring to the club.

“They’re definitely getting a warrior,” Forrest said. “I’m going to push the guy in front of me, come in and compete for a job. Bring it on special teams. That’s what I plan on doing.”

“He should be a key special-teams guy for us,” Fisher said. “And he’s got length and explosion and instincts to make a lot of plays behind the ball for us. So it was a great pick.”

And it’s a selection that not too long ago would have been unfathomable — even for the player himself.

“I never thought this in a million years,” Forrest said. “It’s crazy to think about.”

Crazy as it may be, Forrest is now a Los Angeles Ram.

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