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‘I’m Pretty Sure my Mom is Very Proud of Me’: Penn State DE Adisa Isaac Working Toward Dream at NFL Combine

Adisa Isaac celebrates another Penn State sack of Taulia Tagovailoa, holds up four fingers on each hand to honor Chop Robinson

Indianapolis— For some reason, it always felt like Penn State DE Adisa Isaac was overlooked from the outside.

Some of it was due to bad luck.

Isaac was entering his third college football season– the one where many come into their own as college football stars– but lost all of that season due to injury.

Part of it could have been due to Isaac’s teammate, Chop Robinson, who like Isaac is in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Combine. Robinson transferred to Penn State just as Isaac was returning from injury, and became an impact player. To be clear, Isaac said at his Combine press conference Wednesday that he considers Robinson coming to Penn State a “blessing” for him. At the same time, it could be argued that Robinson’s play and impressive physical attributes overshadowed Isaac to an extent.

But since Isaac’s college career ended, his name has gotten bigger and bigger in NFL Draft talk.

At the senior bowl in Mobile, Alabama earlier this month, Isaac impressed to the point where ESPN analyst Louis Riddick called him one of the best prospects over the whole week.

Isaac was pleased with what he did, as well, and felt he was “able to display my talents against the best.”

“Just do what I’ve been doing all year and just do it at a higher level and really have that first experience with NFL coaches this time,” Isaac said, “not just my personal coaches. So it’s a great experience for me. I was just happy I was able to display my talents.”

NFL teams for Isaac to do what he did at Penn State for them.

The 6-foot-4, 249-pounder was a first-team all-Big Ten honoree for his performance, which featured 7.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 37 total tackles.

Isaac had played good football at Penn State before 2023, but this was the year he blossomed into a Big Ten star.

He was also part of one of the best defenses in school history, a unit that finished second in the country in total defense.

For Isaac, being a part of Manny Diaz’s unit helped him get to where he is.

“It’s about chemistry,” he said. “When you have guys that are on the same page, that you’re fighting for every day and that you’re riding for, it brings the best out of you. It makes you play to a higher standard knowing that the person next to you has your back and you have theirs. So, I mean, playing for your brothers is a different feeling that comes out on the field.”

Issac’s also been part of a solid group of defensive linemen at Penn State, which over the years has included players such as Robinson, Arnold Ebiketie and Nick Tarburton, as well as Amin Vanover and Zuriah Fisher, two of Isaac’s former teammates who are still with the program.

In talking about Penn State’s defensive line success, Isaac echoed legendary Penn State wrestler Bo Nickal.

“It’s just what we do,” he said. “It’s just the talent that we have, the development that Penn State gives us and the family environment. It brings the best out of everybody.”

One player who Isaac feels brought the best out of him was another Combine participant, Olu Fashanu.

Fashanu is thought by many to be a top-five pick, so it’s easy to see how going up against him would have benefitted Isaac.

“Olu helped my game tremendously,” Isaac said. “In practice, it’s a lot of battles going back and forth and we’re all competitive. Penn State’s the most competitive environment in college football, so it doesn’t get better than that. We brought the best out of each other, and that’s all you can ask for going into a game.”

Beyond football, Isaac has three siblings who are unable to speak and is raised by a single mother whom Isaac calls “my biggest role model.

Pretty soon, Lisa Issac’s son will be a millionaire.

‘I’m pretty sure my mom is very proud of me,” he said. “I’m from Brooklyn, New York, so a lot of people don’t make it here. I’m just really blessed. I’m grateful for her for the foundation she instilled in me from a young age that allowed me to be here and fight through all the ups and downs. Just be a better person at the end of the day.”

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