Coming into the season, sixth-round pick Corey Ballentine became a quick favorite, someone whom the fans wanted to see make an impact in his rookie year. Most of that stemmed from the tragedy he endured just after getting drafted, when he and his best friend Dwane Simmons were shot with Simmons' wound unfortunately becoming fatal.
But there is also the fact that Ballentine was a Division II prospect that became the first player ever from Washburn University to be drafted into the NFL. He has had to battle many ups and downs to get to this point in the season, and the Giants are beginning to reward that hard work.
On Monday Night Football against the Cowboys, Ballentine was placed in as slot corner for Grant Haley. They felt a switch was needed and Ballentine has been doing everything asked of him, going all the way back to the preseason where he was making plays at practice left and right. And that switch stayed the same against the Jets two weeks ago, where he played 44 defensive snaps compared to 53 against Dallas.
It should continue against the Bears this week, too. And Ballentine is up for the challenge, knowing he can make an impact after facing tough challenges in the past.
"I've been through things that are tougher than what I'm currently going through now," Ballentine told The Post's Ryan Dunleavy. "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."
This is a bit of a transition for Ballentine, who played mostly outside corner before getting drafted. With his smaller frame and blazing speed, the Giants believe he can match up well with crafty slot receivers. He's been playing relatively well, with Dunleavy pointing out him letting up 67 yards on seven catches (10 targets) to Randall Cobb and Jamison Crowder -- two of the best slot receivers in the game -- over the past two games.
As he gets more reps and gets accustomed to the role, his Giants teammates believe he'll fit in nicely on this young defense.
"He's somebody who has been waiting for his opportunity," safety Michael Thomas said. "Whatever the coaches ask him to do, he does it at a high level, full speed."
Ballentine is also leaning on veterans like Thomas and others to get acclimated to things quicker.
"I'm asking for help from all the guys and taking it upon myself to go through situations in my head -- motions and things that could happen in the future," he explained.
The Giants, at 2-8, want to get their rookies and second-year guys more reps as they look to establish building blocks of the future. Ballentine could easily be that slot corner the Giants rely on for years to come -- not to mention his ability to work in the return game with his speed as well.
Over eight games thus far, Ballentine has tallied six combined tackles, one quarterback hit and one pass defended. But that's only the start for a rookie that will see many more reps in the final games of his first NFL season.