Having played multiple positions in high school – quarterback, wide receiver and running back – Robert Rochell wound up being recruited as an athlete during that process.
He had been used to making plays with the ball in his hands. However, when he arrived at Central Arkansas, his head coach at that time told him that if he wanted to make money playing this position, he should play defensive back.
"I looked at my mother, I didn't even think twice about it (and) just changed my position right there on the spot," Rochell said during his video conference with reporters after being drafted with the 130th overall pick. "And since then, I've been playing DB."
It was a prudent decision. Combining all of those backgrounds helped author a college career with the Bears that led to him being a fourth-round pick by the Rams on Saturday and joining a secondary that values such versatility.
The most prominent example shown by the Rams last year was All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was deployed on the outside as well as inside in the slot. Coincidentally, Ramsey was one of the cornerbacks Rochell studied and looked up to as he was learning the position.
"He's a guy that I modeled my game after. He's a guy that I love watching," Rochell said. "He's a guy who I really look up to in the ways of playing cornerback. I just recently changed to the position. He is definitely one of the guys I picked up on. Same kind of body style, same type of attitude about football. He's a guy that I'm ready to get beside of and work and learn from."
If Rochell's college career is any indication, he could be a quick study.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he started in three of 11 games played, logging eight tackles, one interception and six pass breakups. Appearing in the same number of games the following year, he started five more games (eight total) and boosted his production to 25 tackles (three for loss), four interceptions and six pass breakups. His breakout 2019 redshirt junior season culminated with First Team All-Southland Conference honors after snagging five interceptions (tied for 10th-most in the FCS), 44 total tackles and a team-high 13 pass breakups.
It's unclear what Rochell's role will be yet, but he indicated he's willing to play nickel corner if necessary with Ramsey and Darious Williams holding down the outside spots.
"I'm a guy who has big confidence, believes in myself and I'm always ready," Rochell said. "So, definitely prepared to play that position."
Fittingly, he was celebrating the beginning of this new journey alongside his mom, whose affirmation was a key piece to getting him to where he is today.
"At the moment when we looked at each other in the eye, she said, 'Do it,' and (I) just trusted her right there. And still trusting her through all this process has been everything," Rochell said. "Just having that somebody behind you that you can believe in and not have to second guess is everything. So just told her that we did it."