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Corey Ballentine's toughness winning over Giants coaches, teammates

New York Giants rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine endured unspeakable tragedy before ever taking his first NFL snap, suffering a gunshot wound on the very night he was drafted while his close personal friend, Dwane Simmons, was killed in a senseless act of violence that has still yet to be explained.

Ballentine has not only had to recover from that — both mentally and physically — but he’s had to balance that heartache with learning an NFL playbook, familiarizing himself with a new defensive system and preparing himself to compete against the best players on the planet each week.

It’s been trying to say the least, but Ballentine’s positive attitude and general toughness have not only won over his coaches, but won over his teammates.

“He’s somebody who has been waiting for his opportunity,” safety Michael Thomas told the New York Post. “Whatever the coaches ask him to do, he does it at a high level, full speed. I love the way he has paid attention to detail. His notes in meetings have been great. If coach calls on him, he is ready to answer questions and knows his stuff.”

After slowly getting his feet under him early on and dealing with an injury unrelated to the April shooting, Ballentine is now seeing his defensive reps increase substantially. And given all that he’s been through this year, that feels like a breeze.

“I’ve been through things that are tougher than what I’m currently going through now,” Ballentine said, admitting that he’d had to adjust his mental approach for a game as violent as football. “I like to push myself through those things to see what I’m made of. Football is hard, and I like that part about it. That’s what makes great players: They push through the tough times.

“I had to adjust my mindset because football is a physical game and that was not my nature [growing up]. Change takes a long time. I changed my ways to be more physical and aggressive on the field. That’s hard. I was not heavily recruited for football, I was kind of going through on talent, and I got tired of being pushed around.”

The transition to full-time slot corner hasn’t exactly gone flawlessly for Ballentine, but his willingness to learn and improve is not lost on head coach Pat Shurmur.

“The thing I like about Corey is he is tough, and he competes,” Shurmur said. “That’s the starting point for a football player.”

It doesn’t take a football savant to watch Ballentine and realize there’s special potential in him, but more than anything else, it’s his resiliency and toughness that will be what carries him through a fruitful NFL career.

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