Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker needed to take a moment as he boarded his flight for a training facility over the winter. He graduated college weeks earlier, and it hit him: He was finally preparing to focus full-time on the very thing he wanted to do since he first started playing football at 4 years old.
“I’m proof that things can work out,” Brisker said.
With two seasons spent at Scranton’s Lackawanna College and three at Penn State, Brisker used to wonder when his moment would arrive. That third season at Penn State, which he debated returning for, proved to be critical. He improved his draft stock, so much so that the versatile safety found his place in the NFL after the Chicago Bears drafted him with the No. 48 pick in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night.
Brisker was all over the field last season, starting 12 games and racking up 64 tackles, six tackles for loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups to earn second-team All-America honors. In the lead-up to the draft, he said several teams asked him about potentially playing all six defensive back positions. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, though he wasn’t thrilled because he ran in the 4.3s during his time at Penn State.
With cornerback speed, intelligence and the physicality to deliver big hits, the Nittany Lion captain was often putting his teammates in the right places and then telling them what he thought was coming their way.
Dane Brugler on Jaquan Brisker (No. 5 S, No. 42 overall prospect in The Beast)
Brisker covers a lot of ground and is most comfortable when he can walk down and attack the line of scrimmage with his physical play demeanor. Though he competes with non-stop urgency vs. the run, he isn’t a consistent wrap-up tackler, which leads to misses. Overall, Brisker lacks ideal explosiveness and size on paper, but his innate toughness and timing fuel his playmaking skills. He projects as a starting strong safety in the NFL.
Top college highlight
The Penn State defense was faced with fourth-and-goal, clinging to a six-point lead on the road against Wisconsin. With 2:16 left in the game — one in which Brisker had gone on and off the field while dealing with cramping — he was back on the field. He dropped back and picked off Graham Mertz, crediting his film study for the interception.
He said that earlier in the game, while riding the bike on the sideline, he saw the Badgers run the same play and figured they were likely going to come back to it.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 4, 2021
Throughout the pre-draft process, Brisker was set on providing to teams that he knew Penn State’s defense and his teammates inside and out. Yes, he was constantly moving teammates pre-snap in college, but sharpening the mental side of his game was a focal point when he returned for the extra season. He wanted to showcase that knowledge in pre-draft meetings. The more teams asked, the more detail he provided.
“I could always draw up anything — and I always played ‘Madden,’ so I was always around football and things like that,” he said.
“He has a unique skill set where if we really wanted to we could play him at a corner. He’s got corner cover skills, but safety toughness, safety body, safety vision. I just think he got a unique skill set and whoever gets him at the next level is gonna really enjoy coaching him and having him on their team because he can do so many things.” — Penn State safety coach Anthony Poindexter, who was a College Football Hall of Fame safety at Virginia
(Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)