Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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30 JUNE/JULY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL J ustin Alumbaugh estimates only a handful of the plentiful nicknames his Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High School foot- ball players give each other make their way to him. It's for the best, he thinks. Let them have their jokes. But a particular one bestowed upon Isaiah Foskey by a friend a few years back reached his ears and made too much sense. "The Equal- izer" matched Foskey's soft-spoken personality with his twitchy athletic traits and austere on-field demeanor. It's a reference to a movie where one of Foskey's favorite actors is an unas- suming store worker who doubles as a deft vigilante. "It's Denzel Washington playing this guy who's just quiet, but can turn and flip his switch in a matter of seconds," Foskey said. "I'm low-key about everything. But when it comes to football, I'm all out." Alumbaugh witnessed it up close for three years in practices and on Friday nights. Foskey, a two-way starter at defensive end and tight end for De La Salle, was a backfield magnet and edge punisher too phys- ical and slippery for opponents to handle. Outside the lines, he was a cheery teammate and "cuddly bear." "You see him in the hallway goof- ing around, he has that big smile," Alumbaugh said. "Then you put on pads and he's not smiling so much." None of that has really changed since Foskey arrived at Notre Dame from Northern California in the sum- mer of 2019 as a four-star defensive end recruit. He is, though, around more folks built like himself and ca- pable of matching his traits. He has teammates who like him were 6-2 and 190 pounds or more in eighth grade and now can jump out of a pool. That is not to say his assimilation into college life and a bigger stage has gone poorly. Foskey offered flashes during a four-game freshman sample, which allowed him to keep his redshirt. He had five tackles and a quarterback hurry. He also blocked a punt in Notre Dame's win at Stan- ford. Most weeks, he was a valuable scout team member. And in 2020, with a pair of fifth-year seniors still around, Foskey is likely to begin his sophomore year in a rotational role. "We think he can be a very spe- cial player," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in November. "He can impact our sub package in par- ticular and be a starter in that sub package. He can influence the pass rush for us in a positive way." In itself, a sub-package projection is motivation for a player who de- rives it only from his enjoyment of the game. There's no off-field factor at the center of his drive. Just him, wanting to be better than everyone else. The four-game constraint is lifted, which in his eyes is all the op- portunity he needs. "Most people say it's their fam- ily or they have someone they do it for. What drives me is just myself," Foskey said. "It's like having a job you like. "I don't want to go on the field and not be ready." 'THE SHACKLES WERE LOOSE' When an eighth-grader has the build of an NFL wide receiver and trains at a gym frequented by cur- rent and former Power Five pros- pects, college coaches can catch wind of him. Perhaps even before he can grasp the idea of college football as more than a vague, far-off goal. Then-Kansas coach David Beatty and his staff sure did, tossing Fos- key an offer before he finished grade school. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from talking to recruits until Sept. 1 of their junior year, so the Kansas staff called Foskey's coaches and his parents, who told a confused 'EQUALIZER' Edge rusher Isaiah Foskey is surging toward an increased role as a sophomore Foskey — who contributed five tackles, one quarterback hurry and a crucial blocked punt in four games played in 2019 — will push the limits of the rotational role he is primed to assume. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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