Penn State safety Troy Apke arrived at the NFL Combine with little fanfare — even his invitation was a surprise.
He left Indianapolis after lighting up social media and garnering praise from NFL legend Deion Sanders.
Apke ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash Monday, the fastest time among safeties and the fourth-fastest among defensive backs. His blazing speed stunned Sanders: “You know why I’m surprised. I can’t say it on TV, but he can run.”
Apke, battling stereotypes as a speedy white safety, was an unknown commodity whom most believed would go undrafted. But after his performance — which included a 41-inch vertical — teams will have to take another look.
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“See, this is what the Combine does,” Sanders said after patting Apke on the butt. “It causes you to go back, turn on the film and say, ‘Let me look at this guy.’”
Over the last 10 years, only one defensive back has run a 4.35 or faster in the Combine without getting drafted. The exception happened in 2016 with Auburn’s Jonathan Jones, who signed a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots — and played in all 16 games last season with four starts.
Apke’s time was the fastest by a safety since 2016, when second-round draft pick T.J. Green also ran a 4.34. Since 2010, just one safety — USC’s Taylor Mays — ran a faster 40, in 4.31, and he was also taken in the second round.
“I’ll tell you what, he has set the stage today,” Sanders added. “That’s the way you set the stage.”
Apke was a one-year starter who primarily contributed on special teams before his senior season. He finished the 2017 season with 55 tackles, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a blocked kick.
He received an invitation to the NFL Combine after earning MVP honors in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl by collecting seven tackles, forcing a fumble and intercepting a deep pass.
“Let’s face it,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said, “Penn State has lit this Combine up.”