GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers signed cornerback Corey Ballentine to their practice squad on Wednesday, a source told Packer Central.
A sixth-round pick by the New York Giants in 2019, he started four games and broke up two passes during his first two seasons. Where he’s made a much larger impact is on special teams with a career average of 24.4 yards per kickoff return. In the 2021 preseason, he had a 73-yard kickoff return against the Packers while with the Jets.
Ballentine spent training camp with the Atlanta Falcons but failed to make their roster. He spent two weeks on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad last month.
The Packers lost starting cornerback Jaire Alexander to a groin injury on Sunday at Tampa Bay. The injury was not considered serious but Ballentine will provide some instant veteran depth with a chance to provide some more juice on special teams.
At Washburn, Ballentine was a Division II All-American who won the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s best small-college defensive player. As a senior in 2018, he had three interceptions with two forced fumbles and added three blocked kicks. For his career, he picked off five passes, forced four fumbles, blocked four kicks and had a 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns. His all-around excellence got him an invite to the Senior Bowl, which opened the eyes of scouts and proved to him that he belonged.
His path to the NFL almost didn’t happen. “Probably the hardest time that I’ve ever been through was my freshman year of football camp,” he said. “I almost quit because it was the hardest thing I ever did. We would lift, we would be out there in the 100-degree heat, we would be hitting each other. I had a bunk bed and I was on the top bunk. I’d go home and I’d have to climb up there and my body was sore and I’m like, ‘OK, I can’t do this no more.’”
His mom, Denise, kept him going through tough times.
“She definitely helped me through that,” Ballentine said. “She was like, ‘No, you can’t quit. At least try it another week,’ and then I did start seeing some progress when I came at it with a different mind-set. Once I started making plays I was like, ‘OK, maybe I can do this.’ It definitely got way easier.”
Ballentine was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when he was 6. Making it to the NFL was his dream.
“It was surreal,” he said upon being drafted. “This is something I’ve always dreamed of. It took me back to the moment when I got recruited to college and I told my coaches this is something I wanted to do. Now, here the moment is.
“I knew I wanted to do it, and I just didn’t know how. And now the moment’s here and I’m just trying to soak it in really. I’m enjoying the ride already.”
After being drafted by the Giants, he was shot and a friend was killed.
Ballentine was one of seven players who worked out for the team on Tuesday. He takes the spot created when the Packers promoted running back Patrick Taylor to the 53-man roster on Saturday.