Nick Cross, former Maryland star, drafted by Colts
By Chris McManes
In less than seven years, Nick Cross transformed himself from football novice to NFL Draft pick
Cross, who left the University of Maryland after three seasons, was a third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in late April. Indianapolis moved up in the draft to select the 6-foot-1, 212-pound safety.
“It’s a great overall organization with good structure and stability,” said Cross, a St. Jerome Academy and DeMatha Catholic High School graduate. “I feel like it’s a good place to be.”
As a junior for the Terrapins last season, Cross had 67 tackles (3.5 for loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles, four pass breakups and three interceptions. He was for a third time named honorable mention All-Big 10. In Maryland’s Pinstripe Bowl victory, his strip sack led to a touchdown by fellow DeMatha alum Greg Rose.
The numbers that really caught the attention of NFL personnel were the ones Cross recorded at the NFL Scouting Combine. He posted a 37-inch vertical jump, a 130-inch broad jump and ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.34 seconds. It was the fastest time among safeties.
Cross, who’s only 20 years old, also ran track at DeMatha and Maryland.
“He’s a fantastic athlete,” said NFL analyst and former pro personnel director Louis Riddick during the draft. “He can make plays on the ball.”
The Colts’ head coach is former Buffalo Bills and Maryland quarterback Frank Reich. Among Cross’ fellow safeties is Rodney McLeod, a 2008 DeMatha graduate who played on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl championship team.
Cross first met McLeod when he attended McLeod’s football camp in the summer of 2015. “He’s someone I look up to, who came from DeMatha and got the job done,” said Cross, who after wearing number 3 at Maryland will don his high school number (20) with Indy.
Cross transferred to St. Jerome Academy for eighth grade in 2014. That winter, he helped lead the Jaguars basketball team to another CYO Mid-Atlantic City Championship. His first experience in organized football came on DeMatha’s 2015 freshman team. He played varsity the next season and contributed to the Stags’ title-winning squad. He started his final two years and as a senior was named All-American.
Cross learned his football fundamentals at DeMatha, particularly under head coach Elijah Brooks, defensive coordinator Deno Campbell and defensive backs coaches Vance Robbs and Josh Wilson. (Brooks is now the Terps’ running backs coach.)
“They helped start my football career and really put me on pace to have a lot of success,” Cross said. “They helped me develop my football knowledge and football IQ.”
Cross is two semesters shy of graduating with a finance degree. He plans to return to Maryland during the offseason because he wants to graduate from the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
“It’s definitely important,” he said. “I told my parents that I would come back and finish. A college degree is something no one can take away from you and something I can add to my arsenal.”
Cross said Joe Sego, his coach at St. Jerome, was one of the first people to instill in him the idea that he could play in the NFL, “even before I started playing football.”
“After we won the city championship, I told Coach Sego I wanted him to be part of my life, part of my journey,” he said. “We have a great bond. I talk to him about a lot of things. I look to him as a mentor, a brother, an uncle. I’ve really been appreciative of having him in my life. I’m super grateful for it.”
Cross is the first St. Jerome graduate to be chosen in the NFL Draft. The school has produced NBA players Victor Oladipo, Marcus Derrickson, Jeff Dowtin and Quinn Cook. Sego also coached former Miami Dolphins Pro Bowler Cam Wake at St. Mark.
“From the day I met him, Nick had a laser focus rarely seen in someone so young,” Sego said. “Decked out in Redskins gear, he’d talk about his love of [the late] Sean Taylor and his dream to play in the NFL. His work ethic and commitment to improving in basketball and then football was almost an addiction.
“I simply supported his goals and talked about Cam, Victor and Quinn’s success. I never questioned his abilities and always reinforced the attainability of his dreams.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers Terrapin sports for the College Park Here & Now.