Nick Lisi/Associated Press
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Senior Andrew Isaacs came to Maryland as a highly rated four-star tight end prospect. But after suffering a devastating knee injury just four games into his sophomore season at Syracuse, the road back has been a long and difficult one.
Isaacs would go on to miss the remainder of his sophomore season and his entire junior season due to injury while making just five appearances last year.
The fifth-year senior didn't give up. He didn't quit. Instead, Isaacs switched to the defensive side of the ball, moving to defensive end under second-year head coach DJ Durkin.
On Saturday, in a 63-17 home-opening win, Isaacs finally saw all of his hard work pay off, as the former Terps tight end recorded three tackles and 1.5 sacks against Towson.
"It was exciting," Isaacs said after the game. "It's been a long road. I've had lots of struggles. Finally getting on the field and having a chance to help out my teammates is one of the best feelings I've had in a while."
While the defensive end position isn't totally new to him, Isaacs recorded 103 tackles and 10 sacks as a high school senior on defense, he had never lined up on the defensive side of the ball in college until this year.
“I’m very proud of Andrew,” Durkin said during a weekly coaches teleconference. “You can’t find a better young man than Andrew. Great teammate, great player, great friend, great person to coach. Obviously, he’s been through some traumatic injuries in his career and very unselfishly, he switched positions and we thought that was his best opportunity to get on the field and help us. He’s obviously learning a new position and he gets better every day with every rep he gets."
Having lined up opposite opposing defensive ends early in his college career as a tight end has helped Isaacs in the transition to defense as he looks to now get around blocks versus setting them.
"You can see what guys are doing because you know what you would have done," said Isaacs. "So just thinking back to my offensive days, seeing how guys are lined up, seeing their stances, so I can read some of those things. But for the most part, I just have to focus on playing the techniques I'm learning right now."
To that end, learning the nuances and techniques of playing along the defensive line have been the biggest challenge for Isaacs.
"The biggest thing was just learning the techniques," said Isaacs. "I didn't realize how technical playing defensive line is. Most people think you just run past people and try to make plays. But there's a lot of technique and a lot of thinking involved. I'm still learning, but I've made a lot of progress."
With senior starter Jesse Aniebonam likely out for the remainder of the season, opportunity could arise for Isaacs to see increased playing time at his new position.
With Durkin at the helm, anything is possible when players go out and play hard and give maximum effort.
"We just wanted to play hard," Isaacs said. "That was what Coach Durkin preached. He just wanted to see effort. That's what I tried to do when I got my opportunity. I just tried to play as hard as I can."