At 6-3, 260 pounds Byron Isom is an offensive lineman's terror. He's big, strong and fast, capable of dominating the line of scrimmage. The Florida Gators are recruiting this big guy hard and the interest that's been shown definitely has Isom thinking that Gainesville could be in his future.
Isom and teammate Mario Fannin, who is a good looking safety, were supposed to be at Florida last weekend but at the last minute those plans ran amok. The two of them are rescheduling the trip for July and Isom anticipates this will be an outstanding visit.
"We were supposed to go Thursday but we had a conflict of interest," he said. "We are going on the 22nd of July for something they call 'Friday Night Lights.' Coach (Urban) Meyer told us that he wants us to come down there, Mario and I. I don't know the details though."
This isn't just a pleasure trip to get caught up in all the hoopla surrounding Gator recruiting. Isom has solid interest in Florida and not just for football reasons. He is looking long and hard at Florida's football programs but also into the academics.
"I have a lot of interest in them," he said. "They are probably at the top of my list right now … them and South Carolina. I don't really have a leader, they are both up there."
Isom's interest in Florida was stimulated earlier in the spring when he visited Gainesville for a major recruiting event.
"I went there for junior day," he said. "I liked the facilities. I talked to Coach (Greg) Mattison and talked to Coach Meyer. They are trying to bring the Gators back. I liked the feeling there. Coach (Stan) Drayton … I like him. He is cool and down to earth. He is going to be real clear cut through the recruiting process and he is not going to be jerking my chain. I like him and like that."
The fact that he is so fond of Florida comes as no surprise when you discover who his favorite player was when he was growing up. It just happens to be a guy who gave quarterbacks fits in the days when he ruled the defensive line in The Swamp.
"Jevon Kearse," he said, describing the former Gator who is All-Pro with the Eagles as his favorite player. "I liked the Gators and Coach (Steve) Spurrier growing up."
He has a relatively short list of schools that interest him in the recruiting process. Though he's a hot prospect who is getting more mail and more offers, there are just a few schools that he likes.
"I like Florida South Carolina, Auburn, NC State, Nebraska, Maryland Tennessee, and that's about it right now," he said.
He talked about his favorites:
SOUTH CAROLINA: "I talked to Coach (Tyrone) Nix, the defensive line coach and he said they were losing a lot of defensive linemen and he thinks I can start early."
NEBRASKA: "I don't really know too much about them but the coach likes me a lot. He just thinks I will fit in."
TENNESSEE: "Mario and I are supposed to be going there. I talked to Coach Washington and he said I am the same build as Kyle Burnett. He thinks I can be the next good one."
AUBURN: "They were the first to offer. They originally wanted me as an offensive lineman. But I have been talking to the defensive line coach and they now think I am a defensive player."
NC STATE: "I have a lot of family in North Carolina and that is pretty much it."
MARYLAND: "I have talked to their coaches. I went up there on the 4th of June. I didn't really see anybody. I just toured their campus and I liked it."
Although he plays defensive end now, there is that possibility that he will be moved inside once he gets in college and starts a big time strength and conditioning regimen. He can see himself moving inside once he moves up to the next level.
"I play defensive end, but most people tell me I can play either inside or outside," he said. "They want me on the defensive line somewhere. Most people think defensive tackle until they watch my tape. That is where I see myself at the next level. They say I am strong and fast and I use my abilities well. If the other player is smaller than me I will use my strength, but if a player is stronger than me I would use my speed or I can mix it up. Once I get my mind set, no one can stop me."
Isom will start to narrow down his choices in the next two months to a top five, at which point he will start planning his official visits. .
"I will have my visits set, probably by the end of the summer," he said. "I am trying to go to colleges on unofficial visits but I have practice and I am working right now, so it is hard to get everywhere. Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have my five schools.
"I am going to look for the school with the best education. They need to have my major. I really like sports medicine right now … the education, the scenery, the environment, how well I fit in with the school, and how well I fit in with the team."
Byron Isom has the kind of attitude you like to see from a defensive lineman. He just enjoys beating the guy across the line from him and creating havoc for the other team. That's just the kind of player the Florida Gators are seeking for their class of 2006.