No. 7 Isaiah Mack
College interest: UTC, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech.
On the surface Isaiah Mack is a happy-go-lucky bundle of energy who wreaks havoc on opposing offenses. Inside, the Northwest Whitfield senior defensive tackle is a fierce competitor who prefers putting his teammates ahead of his personal goals.
Search for Mack in recruiting databases and you won't find much, despite his unheard-of 137 tackles from the interior line last year. Thirty of those were behind the line of scrimmage. He had 23 quarterback hurries and eight sacks. By season's end, any coach worth his salt found ways to double-team him.
The problem for recruiters is that he doesn't have major college size for a tackle, and the transition to linebacker, which many feel is his college position, isn't a natural one for most athletes. But Mack isn't a prototypical athlete.
"He's got one of the fastest 10-yard dashes on the team, and his first step is something you just can't teach," Northwest head coach and defensive coordinator Josh Robinson said. "People don't believe his stats, but they're even better than they look. He had several tackles downfield last year that saved touchdowns -- plays you never see a tackle make."
A player with untypical measurements usually spends his entire offseason visiting universities and attending camps. Mack hit a few camps, but he soon realized the only thing that makes him happy is working to make his team better. The Bruins were 6-4 last year and lost a three-overtime game to Gilmer County that prevented them from making the playoffs.
In that game, Mack had 30 tackles, nine behind the line. The numbers were great, the memories not so much.
"That game haunts me," he said. "I was away [in Australia for camp] when they got to face Gilmer in a camp and got their revenge. I hated to not be there, and I want my rematch."
Since then Mack has put recruiting on the back burner, believing his best strategy is to focus on making his senior season special.
"I haven't been focused on recruiting," he said. "I was supposed to go to 15 camps this year, but I would rather be with my teammates than go to camps. To me, you can't get recruited unless you play football. How can you impress scouts in T-shirts and shorts when they can watch you play real games in pads? I want to let my play do the talking."
This season that likely means lining up at different positions, including linebacker, end and maybe -- if he has his wish -- sometimes at tight end.
"They are going to mix it up with me," he said, a devilish smile creeping across his face. "We've got some versatile guys up front, so they will let me drop back in coverage some. I keep bugging them to let me play offense. Anything on defense, though, and I can play it. I may be slow at the start, but give me time and I can learn it."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...