Penn State's Adisa Isaac Gets His NFL Opportunity With the Baltimore Ravens

"I always knew that I wasn't going to be hurt forever," the Nittany Lions edge rusher said about overcoming his 2021 injury.
Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac goes in for the sack against Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference game at Ford Field in Detroit.
Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac goes in for the sack against Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference game at Ford Field in Detroit. / David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's Adisa Isaac winced and struggled through rehab in 2021, certain that he would play again but unsure how effective he would be. So he vision-quested a future in which he chased down quarterbacks, tormented defensive coordinators and made NFL scouts take look his way.

"It felt like it was miles away, but I always knew that I wasn’t going to be hurt forever," Isaac said. "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."

Isaac's opportunity is here. The Baltimore Ravens selected Isaac in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft, the latest point on a remarkable three-year arc that continues to rise. Isaac was Penn State's fourth player selected in this draft and the second defensive end with Chop Robinson (though he was listed as a linebacker). That prospect seemed distant three years ago, when Isaac sustained an offseason Achilles injury that pre-emptively ended a promising sophomore year and put his future in question.

But Isaac got back on track through a year of rehab, earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022, and broke out last season. He led the Nittany Lions in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (15) and was the Big Ten's most valuable edge rusher, according to Sports Info Solutions. The analytics site found that Isaac topped the conference in points saved (24.87) and points above average (16.87) and generated pressure on 17.3 percent of his pass-rush snaps.

"You're just trying to figure out a way [to draft Isaac]," ESPN's Louis Riddick said during the network's Senior Bowl coverage in January. "... What price do I have to pay? I'd be trying to figure it out."

Isaac delivered a strong offseason performance at the Senior Bowl but ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which might have affected his draft position. But at the combine, Isaac also delivered a terrific answer to the question, "What type of player are you?"

"Smart, destructive, coachable," he said.

RELATED: Why Penn State's Olu Fashanu is "only going to get better" with the New York Jets

Deion Barnes, Penn State's defensive line coach, guided Isaac through those two productive years to become an NFL draft pick. Barnes watched and marveled at his growth.

"When he’s out there playing, he’s starting to become crafty and manipulate his alignment against certain plays," Barnes said. "He's starting to understand how to play with his stance, confuse the offense, make even more plays. The kid is starting to get it all together now."

Like Fashanu, who went to the New York Jets with the No. 11 overall pick, Fashanu could have entered the draft after the 2022 season. But he needed one more year post-injury, needed a season as a headline starter and needed to build a stronger foundation. That produced what Isaac called "definitely one of the best seasons of my life."

"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."

AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich.


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Mark Wogenrich

MARK WOGENRICH

Mark Wogenrich is Editor and Publisher of AllPennState, the site for Penn State news on SI's FanNation Network. He has covered Penn State sports for more than two decades across three coaching staffs and three Rose Bowls.