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Penn State's Adisa Isaac Is Stealing the Show at the Senior Bowl

The Nittany Lions edge rusher is climbing NFL Draft boards through his Senior Bowl performance.

As he labored through rehab in 2021, unable to play and uncertain how well he would again, Penn State's Adisa Isaac tried to envision his future. One in which he thrived again as an edge rusher, tormenting quarterbacks and defensive coordinators, prompting NFL coaches to crane their necks and ask, "Who's that?"

"It did seem far, that is true," Isaac said in December before the Peach Bowl. "It felt like it was miles away, but I always knew that I wasn’t going to be hurt forever. That’s going to pass. As long as I put the work in, I’ll be happy with the results when the time comes and the opportunity comes."

The opportunity has arrived. After an All-Big Ten season in which he led the Nittany Lions in sacks and tackles for loss, Isaac is making a run at becoming a wanted asset in the 2024 NFL Draft. Isaac has been among the most-discussed defensive players at the Senior Bowl this week, earning high praise from scouts and analysts. ESPN's Louis Riddick raved about Isaac during the network's Senior Bowl coverage, saying that NFL teams are asking, "How do I get in a position to draft him?"

"You're just trying to figure out a way," Riddick said during the network's Senior Bowl coverage Thursday. "... What price do I have to pay? I'd be trying to figure it out."

Isaac, who made 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss during the regular season, was the Big Ten's most valuable edge rusher, according to Sports Info Solutions. Isaac topped the conference in points saved (24.87) and points above average (16.87), according to SIS data. He generated pressure on 17.3 percent of his pass-rush snaps.

At the Senior Bowl, Isaac has continued to impress. ESPN's Matt Miller wrote that Isaac "stole the show" during National team practices and was the best defensive lineman on the field Thursday.

"His first-step quickness was too much to handle, and his spin move frustrated more than one blocker," Miller wrote in his ESPN evaluation.

Riddick projected Isaac as a starting outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense who could rise further up draft boards if he tests well at the NFL Combine.

"Let him go to the combine and run a 4.5, 4.6 [in the 40-yard dash], and he's not lasting until the third round," Riddick said. "There's no way I'm waiting that long to draft a guy who's that productive."

Isaac worked a long time to deliver that kind of productivity. He missed the 2021 season with an Achilles injury and returned to Penn State's starting lineup in 2022. He had a strong season, making 11 tackles for loss and earning third-team All-Big Ten honors, but knew he had more to give, and gain, at Penn State. So Isaac returned for the 2023 season.

"I probably would say it was [one of biggest decisions of my life] because who knows what would have happened last year if I would have come out?" Isaac said. "Look, you might not have been able to see this type of season this year if I would have left. Everything happens for a reason. That’s why I stay even-keeled and trust the process."

Isaac, a Penn State captain, also believes he sent a message to younger players about having patience with that process.

"It definitely was one of my best seasons of my life," Isaac said. "I could have never thought I would be in this type of position, I’m just very humble. I put a lot of my situation in perspective for the younger guys. giving them tips about what I’ve seen and what I could have done better.

"Everything ended up panning out for me."

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