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Colts 20-year-old rookie safety Nick Cross in line to start vs. Texans

WESTFIELD, IN - AUGUST 03: Nick Cross #20 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen during training camp at Grand Park. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — How did you celebrate your 21st birthday? I assume, like me, you are thinking, ‘That was dumb!’ With age comes wisdom and learning from past experiences (like that headache the day after turning 21).

On Sunday in Houston, the Colts 2022 third-round pick out of the University of Maryland Nick Cross will celebrate in one of the more impressive fashions imaginable, making his NFL debut as Indianapolis opens its season against the Texans.

Cross, who turns 21 years old one day before on Saturday, is slated to be the Colts starting strong safety on a defense loaded with talent.

According to multiple 2022 NFL Draft databases, Cross was the youngest prospect in this April’s draft class, and on the Colts’ 53-man roster he is the youngest active player by nearly 16 months.

On Monday, Colts Head Coach Frank Reich detailed Cross’ unique presence around the team.

“He’s not your typical 21-year-old,” Reich said. “This guy is incredibly mature in a lot of ways, and I don’t get that from just talking to him because he’s kind of a quiet guy, but you watch his habits. His habits – like if you walk around this building for a week and just monitored every person, you would say he’s different. He’s a very disciplined person. I think he’s positioned himself well to play early.”

According to StatMuse former Chicago Bears running back Andy Livingston (20 years, 45 days) is the youngest player to appear in an NFL game when he suited up in Chicago against Green Bay on December 5th, 1965.

Appearing in an NFL game before a 21st birthday is extremely rare, with only five players in league history seeing game action before turning 20-and-a-half per StatMuse.

Cross’ is the son of two immigrant parents, his father Michael born in Jamacia, and his mother Anna Awah-Cross originating from Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite a serious interest in football, Cross was not allowed by his parents to play on an organized team until he reached high school. Once on the field at Washington D.C. area prep powerhouse DeMatha Catholic, Cross’ previous talent in basketball and soccer helped turn him into Maryland’s top football prospect in the class of 2019.

Despite nearly 40 scholarship offers, including one from iconic Head Coach Nick Saban and the University of Alabama, Cross elected to play for Maryland and started five games at safety for the Terps as a true freshman.

In addition to earning All-Big Ten Honorable mention accolades in each of his three seasons in College Park, Cross also found a perfect friend and eventual roommate for the next level — Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s son, Dino.

Looking ahead to Sunday against the Texans, recently Cross politely shrugged off a question regarding the anxiety of making his NFL debut, instead drawing comparisons from the game back to his time on the Colts’ practice field.

“Nothing is different, just a whole bunch of fans out there and a different colored jersey you’re playing against,” Cross said. “So, just go out there, execute the call, play with the right technique, and when you have the chance to make plays, you’ll make plays.”

Indianapolis, get ready for one of the youngest, most mature rookies in NFL history to be flying around in the secondary on Sunday.