This year’s NFL Draft will be unlike any other. As it has been coined a “defensive-heavy” draft, 259 worthy athletes will get their shot starting April 28, 2022.
Among those candidates is safety Kerby Joseph, from the University of Illinois. The Orlando native will be waiting for the call to make an impact in his professional career, much as he did during his college years.
In just his junior year, Joseph was elected to the All-Big Ten first-team selected by the media, All-Big Ten second-team selected by the coaches and AP All-Big Ten first team, just to name a few.
Joseph was also the fifth Illinois safety in the last 50 years to earn All-Big Ten first-team honors, joining Mike Gow (1973), Craig Swope (1983), Glenn Cobb (1988) and Marlon Primous (1989).
Joseph’s stacked resume landed him the opportunity to be eligible for the NFL Draft. He is likely to be a pick on day two of the Draft.
Joseph can attribute his success to his early years of being involved with the sport. He played all kinds of sports but naturally gravitated towards football.
“I fell in love with football when I was, like, eight years old. I was playing with friends and family. ” Joseph said. “When we were kids, we always dreamed of playing in the NFL.”
Joseph described how he, his friends and his cousins would play football on a makeshift field, complemented with rules that are similar to the professional game.
“I was the only little kid jumping on my big cousins’ backs and getting them down,” Kerby said. “[My cousins] were like ‘You should play football for a team, you got it.’ “
Though his cousins and friends wanted Joseph to take his keen skills for the game to the next level, his family had other ideas – at first.
Joseph’s family didn’t want him to play football and run the risk of injury, but he ended up playing regardless and hasn’t looked back since.
“Basketball was cool, baseball was cool, but football was really my go-to,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s transition from the Sunshine State to the north was an interesting one he had to overcome.
“It was cold and wet. I’m from Florida, so I’ve never seen snow before, ”Joseph said.
He went on to talk about how the first time he witnessed snow. It was fun for him and his teammates, but after a few days, it became cold and annoying.
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“My four years [at Illinois] taught me a lot. A lot of life experiences and [to] mature into a young adult, ”Joseph said. “Overall, I had a great four years in Illinois,”
Joseph’s college athletic journey was not an easy one, and when you add the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes the journey even more challenging.
“Covid-19 got a lot of impact in the whole wide world, how it impacted me, I would say, around that COVID time, is when I switched positions,” Joseph said.
Joseph came into that season playing receiver, instead of defensive back. The switch was not difficult, as Joseph played both receiver and safety in high school. The concepts he learned on the defense side helped him play offense.
“I was just blessed with the opportunity to keep my knowledge going,” Joseph said.
More than that, Joseph was just excited to play football again.
“I just wanted to play. I wanted to do whatever position that would allow me to play football because I love football, ”Joseph said.
When it came time for Joseph to make the decision to either play more at Illinois or go into the draft, it almost came naturally to him.
“One thing that’s been with me with both of those decisions was God. I started to pray a lot more ever since I’ve done this draft process, ”Joseph said. “God led me to make my final decision and I just ran with it from there.”
Joseph reflected on the senior bowl and how it was a great opportunity to network with other guys and train. He touched on training hard during his Pro Day and the Combine, as it was a “real grind.”
“It helped me realize other people have their stories, too,” Joseph said. “If you’re really committed to it you have to be determined to win.”
Though this year’s draft is full of defensive talent, Kerby Joseph knows his skillset and determination set him apart from other guys in the draft.
“Nobody is gonna get the ball like I’m how I get the ball, I’m gonna find my way to the ball,” Joseph said. “Wherever the ball is, that’s where I’m gonna be.”
Joseph’s journey is just one of many that will hopefully turn into a career at the next level starting April 28. He believes that doubters should be fuel to keep the motivation going.
“Don’t ever listen to someone who tells you you can’t do something,” Joseph said. “Use that fire, use that fuel to allow you to go harder.”
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