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Swing King: Can Golf Help Texans' Isaac Yiadom Play Cornerback?

Isaac Yiadom is an avid golfer who sees the sport's tools translate from approach shots to the green to interceptions on the sideline.

HOUSTON -- Arnold Palmer once talked about how golf is a mental game.

"Golf is a game of inches," Palmer said. "The most important are the six inches between your ears."

Houston Texans cornerback Isaac Yiadom might be the one player who understands how the two sports correlate. He's an avid golfer away from the gridiron, often trying to get to the course to a shoot a new personal low round.

Prior to the start of training camp, Yiadom played a round at Wildcat Golf Club just outside of Houston. Hoping to break 90, things took a turn after the 15th green. He was staring at an 88 before realizing what the score was. 

A rookie mistake. 

The nerves kicked in on the final three holes. Easy swings became shanks in the woods, thus leading to a 92. And while that was a career-best, he knows he can play better. 

It's similar to how he feels when working in coverage during training camp. 

"It's 100-percent translatable," Yiadom said. "When you hit a bad shot, you truly have to reset. It's the same thing playing corner. If you give up a big play, you have to reset. 

"If you're thinking about that last shot, you're going to shank another ball. It's the same thing. You have to reset and go back to your fundamentals."

A third-round pick out of Boston College, Houston provides an opportunity to Yiadom to keep his football time going. In a way, his career has been a reset. 

After two years in Denver, Yiadom was traded to the New York Giants. A year later he was traded to the Green Bay Packers, eventually carving out a role on special teams as one of the top gunners. 

That's where Yiadom shines best. He said it's where he began his career and what's made him an asset to a roster.

"Those guys … they're willing to do dirty work, and that's kicking game, that's fourth down," Texans special-teams coordinator Frank Ross said of Yiadom and fellow defensive back M.J. Stewart. "They've done a good job so far at that.”

Yiadom's content playing special teams if it helps him make the final 53-man roster, but that's not the end goal. No one improves sitting on the sideline.

He owns a notebook filled with goals and expectations. On the ones he's accomplished, there's a line crossed through. Everyday after practice, he'll review the notebook, looking to a future achievement while hopefully scribbling a black line through one that's been completed. 

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Make no mistake, once the goal is complete, it's not just as simple as moving on. Yiadom makes sure that the reps aren't just perfected physically, but also mentally. 

"I've been doing that every camp since my rookie year," Yiadom said. "It's a way to make sure I don't make the same mistake twice." 

The goals for 2022 are lofty to say the least. Yiadom hopes to not allow a touchdown in coverage in the preseason games. He wants to record five-plus interceptions as well.

So far, turnovers have come left and right in practice. On the first day of training camp, Yiadom picked off quarterback Kyle Allen twice. A day later, he took a pick to the house during 7-on-7 drills. 

"He's physical, likes to tackle. Our corners have to want to tackle," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "He'll be a special-teams contributor for us. A good addition since he came into the building.

"[He] does all the things we're looking for in a corner.”

In golf, players have a variety of clubs at their disposal to lower their handicap. It's the same thing with playing corner. A driver could be considered power. A 7-iron is agility. A putter might be linked to tackling as both close the deal. 

Yiadom's favorite club to use is his pitching wedge. When he first started playing, the 26-year-old wanted to learn the ins and outs, so he used the wedge on every swing for repetition. 

It's similar to how Yiadom had to learn to trust his hands in coverage. Since being drafted, he's recorded 12 pass breakups. 

Since picking up golf a year ago, Yiadom's come far. He's now swinging the driver to set up his next shot. The irons and putters are second nature at this point. And yes, he's still looking to master the pitching wedge as well. 

The club Yiadom wants to improve on next is his 6-iron. It's not that he can't use it, he just wants to master the trajectory of the swing. 

He compares it to his ability in coverage when causing a turnover. When the ball comes his way, the play should end with the ball on the ground. The other tools — like his clubs — will follow close behind. 

"You have to perfect your off-coverage, your press, and it's the same thing with golf," Yiadom said. "You have to perfect your pitching wedge before you can move on to your 6- or 7-iron."

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