The Washington Football Team used its fifth-round pick (163rd overall) to take Cincinnati safety Darrick Forrest.
Forrest is a three-year starter who was an All-AAC honorable mention in 2020. He made 36 career starts for the Bearcats and recorded 200 tackles to go with 12 pass breakups and six interceptions. Forrest was a first-team All-AAC selection in 2019 for getting 106 stops, 63 of which were solo, and three interceptions.
Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to the secondary:
1. He recently won a childhood bet with his sister.
Way back when Forrest was 10 years old, he made a $50 bet with his sister that he would make it to the NFL. That might not have carried much weight for most kids, but Forrest never forgot, and his dedication to pursuing his dream has shined throughout his playing career.
Forrest essentially did it all for Walnut Ridge High School in Ohio. Aside from his defensive stats -- he had 54 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three passes defensed as a senior -- he was also an accomplished kick returner, averaging 27.8 yards on six attempts. He was also a reliable pass-catcher with 514 yards and eight touchdowns on 224 career receptions. Oh, and he ran track and played basketball for the Scots as well.
Forrest was not a highly-regarded recruit, but he did have several measurables that hinted he could become a productive collegiate player. According to his ESPN high school recruiting page, he recorded a 4.74 40-yard dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle and a 36.3-inch vertical jump. That garnered interest from several schools, including Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin, but all of his offers came from the likes of Cincinnati, Ball State, Bowling Green and others outside of the Power 5.
Cincinnati was the only school he visited, per his Rivals account, and three days later he committed to the program. From there, he went on to be a three-year starter, and he eventually impressed Washington's coaches enough for them to take him with a fifth-round pick.
And when it comes to he and his sister's bet all those years ago, he still has not forgotten.
"She's going to have to pay up now," Forrest said.
2. He has a deep appreciation for Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell.
When Fickell was hired as the Bearcats’ head coach in 2016, he said Ohio is a state full of "hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That's what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program." He held himself to that promise with his first recruiting class that included offensive lineman James Smith, safety James Wiggins and Forrest, all of whom were drafted.
Forrest was just a three-star recruit when Fickell offered him a scholarship, but the head coach took a chance on him that ended up working out for both of them. Fickell got a key piece to the Bearcats' defense and special teams, while Forrest told Isaac Saenz on the Pro Football Chase Podcast that being at Cincinnati helped shape the man he is today. And that is something he will forever be grateful for.
"Coach Fick has been a great role model for me," Forrest said. "He's a great coach. He can literally watch the whole defense at once and he's gonna keep us on top of our thing."
Fickell, who previously coached for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, was an ideal fit for a hard-working player like Forrest. He told The Spun in a recent Q&A that Fickell is a coach who "knows exactly what he wants. If that image isn't delivered, he'll keep trying until it is." He delivered on the promises he made, which is a trait Forrest appreciates.
Fickell also made Forrest his defensive captain in 2020, which showed the then senior that he had his coach's support. It serves as an example of how Forrest has molded himself into a "standup guy" after spending the past four seasons at Cincinnati, and he remains grateful for the role Fickell played in his development.
"He's always going to be a guy that I speak to and think highly of," Forrest said.
3. He places high value in being a leader.
There should not be any concern about Forrest when it comes to how he views leadership because he took his captainship seriously. If fact, that's one of the areas he feels like he has improved the most.
"We had a great secondary over the past three seasons and I grew as a leader in that secondary and I made sure everyone was accountable and we practiced like champions," Forrest said. "We changed that program and we became champions and I feel like we did some great things."
Forrest is right to point out how talented the Bearcats' secondary was last season. Their 41.3 passer rating allowed to outside receivers was one of the best in college football, according to Pro Football Focus. But as good as the unit was, Forrest believes his leadership is what jumped out to scouts on film.
"I have high intelligence, and a great ability to recognize play calls and formations," Forrest said. "I would say I'm a guy who goes out there and competes very hard."
The effects of that leadership can be seen in several ways, even in how he interacts with people off the field. During his introductory press conference with local media, Forrest would always reply with "gotcha" before answering a question. When asked why he did this, Forrest said "because miscommunication can lead to a lot of bad things."
"Communication is a good thing and that's one thing that was a point of emphasis at Cincinnati for me just because I'm on the back end, they called me the quarterback of the defense so if I'm not communicating, the defense isn't running efficiently."
When asked by Stampede Blue in March what being a captain meant to him, Forrest replied "everything."
"It meant that my teammates looked up to me, and they saw me as a captain and a leader," he said. "It is not easy being a leader but I stepped up to the challenge and my team had a great year. I felt like it was something I can keep doing, even at the next level, and it is something I will carry throughout my career."
4. He models his skillset after some of the NFL's greatest safeties.
Forrest regards tackling as one of his biggest strengths, and he backed that up with 200 stops in his career, 126 of which were solo. It also makes sense that many of the players he studies are some of the hardest-hitting defensive backs the NFL has ever seen.
"Troy Polamalu, Brian Dawkins, Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Simmons and Sean Taylor," Forrest told The Spun. "Those are a few I can name off the top of my head."
All five of those players are known for being aggressive at the line of scrimmage and racking up tackles for a loss. Polamalu and Dawkins were so good at it that it helped get them to the Hall of Fame. Their influence on his skillset is apparent, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein points out that Forrest is "willing and able" to play at the line of scrimmage and constrict running lanes.
"I love tackling," Forrest said. "It's just something about imposing my will on another person. It gets me very hyped, so in the league, I think I can do the same thing as I did in college. And if they want me in the box, I can play physical."
Forrest has a long way to go before he reaches the same level as his idols, but studying their film and merging their tendencies into his own is a good place to start.
5. He is already sold on being an impact special teams player.
Washington is mostly set at safety with Landon Collins and Deshazor Everett coming back from injury along with Kamren Curl and Jeremy Reaves getting another year's worth of experience. That means Forrest will likely have to contribute on special teams for a spot on the roster, which suits him just fine.
"They sold me on special teams," Forrest said of Washington's coaches. "I played flank at Cincinnati and had a lot of excellent tackles and they feel I can come in and be a dog. That was my main value. I can hold value at safety too, but on special teams [is where] I want to make my role."
Effort is the main reason Forrest takes such pride in his special teams play. If players want to do anything that's best for the team, he said, they're going to get out there on special teams and do your best each and every play. That kind of answer likely pleased special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor, who has already spoken with Forrest in one of the team's pre-draft meetings.
"He was a guy that was straight to his word," Forrest said of Kaczor. "He knew exactly what he wanted. He knew exactly what he wanted out of a player and he communicated that to me, and he felt like I was a great fit for that. I want to thank him for putting me in this opportunity and putting me in this position. I probably wouldn't be here without him."
There is always a chance Forrest could work his way off special teams like Terry McLaurin did during his rookie season. But for now, Forrest is content with doing anything to help the team, which is exactly the kind of attitude Kaczor is looking for.
"His charisma jumps off the screen when he is on the screen virtually with you," Kaczor told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "That charisma plays with his teammates, meaning the players are going to really like him once they get to know him."