Issaka Names Top Two

Woodbridge (NJ) defensive end Max Issaka recently visited Pittsburgh, and still has some other visits he'd like to make before his summer is over. With some recent visits out of the way, there's two schools that stand out for Issaka right now.

Max Issaka was at Pittsburgh recently, and has been to Rutgers a few times as well. He told Panther Digest on Tuesday, that he has a current top two list of schools.

"My top two, right now, if I had to make a choice, would be Pittsburgh and Rutgers," Issaka said. "I'll have to cut that in half some time, but if I had to break it down, it would be Pittsburgh and Rutgers. All these colleges are great. To pick a college, you can't go wrong. There's a good college for you, that's where I'm left."

Issaka said he plans on visiting Florida, Maryland and possibly North Carolina before summer is over. Though he named Pitt and Rutgers as his two top schools, he wouldn't rule out some of these other schools moving in and taking over as a favorite.

"My mind is still open," Issaka said. "I'm going down to Florida, back to Maryland. I'm still keeping my mind wide-range. My parents tell me, ‘Don't close the book.' Last week, I just got an offer from Duke. They have good academics and are great at sports. My mom said, ‘Junior, you're not only a football player, you're smart. Wait a little bit and try to get your visits.'"

Coming off a recent visit to Pittsburgh, there was no limit on the good things Issaka had to say about Pittsburgh. One thing that helped, was how the visit changed his perception of what Pittsburgh was.

"I enjoyed everything, from the atmosphere, to the city life," Issaka said. "I had the wrong perspective. I thought it was all grass land and no man's land. I thought there was nothing to do there. I got to experience new things, how the real Pittsburgh is, and my eyes grew bigger. It ended up good."

Then, there's Pitt assistant Jeff Hafley, who is in charge of recruiting Issaka.

"He's more informational than anything, and he's more of a friend too," Issaka said. "At the end of the day, you want to talk to someone in confidence. Of course, he's bias for Pittsburgh, but he's also telling me to keep my mind open. He tells me he can help me out with any school. That takes great courage to just say that. When you know you're coaching for Pitt and help me with another school, from that standpoint, I appreciate everything he's done for me. He even took a half-day off to come on the recruiting tour with me. He knows everything about Pitt. I like the idea of going to Pitt and playing for them."

One thing he learned about Dave Wannstedt on his trip to Pittsburgh, was that Wannstedt was a former defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. That was news to Issaka, who has the tough task of being a die-hard Cowboys fan, surrounded by rabid fans of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

"Every day in school is crazy, 'The Giants did this, the Giants did that,'" Issaka said. "There's always an argument. We're still in the top (for Super Bowls won), even though Pittsburgh beat us. Giant fans can't say that. I just started getting three of my teammates to become Cowboys fans. But, that's what it is--New Jersey is a tough place. When you come to Jersey, every player is a tough player."

In any event, he was highly impressed learning of Wannstedt's history with the Cowboys.

"I never knew he was with the Cowboys," Issaka said. "He coached for Dallas and won a Super Bowl. When we had our personal conversation, he said (Pitt) is going to be good. He's been in the NFL, and he wants to help me and guide me through that. He likes how I play, and to top it all off, he's a defensive coach. They play a lot with the front four, where they go get the ball. I appreciate that."

In addition to Hafley and Wannstedt, when Issaka thinks of Pittsburgh, he thinks defensive line now. Three or four years ago that might not have been the case, but it seems that the reputations of Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are traveling around.

"When you say Pittsburgh, you think defense," Issaka said. "They have the best d-line on the whole collegiate level. I think of Romeus and (Sheard), and the fact they have the two (Big East) defensive players of the year. Nobody plays four-man up anymore. It's all three-man. You have to be insane to take that risk. The way they play four-man up, you attack. It's crazy. When I think Pittsburgh, I think defense first. That's what makes me want to go to Pitt."

For now, it's down to Pitt and Rutgers.

"At this point, I told Pitt and Rutgers the same thing," Issaka said. "That's where I'm at. I'm still going to look, just to see if I have a different perspective (of other schools). I want to be able to make my decision before the season. But, if I'm not ready (to decide), I'm not ready. They basically say when you're ready, you know. You feel the butterflies, and you know what you want to be a part of. When you know, you know. My parents say the same thing. I have to know what I want to do."

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