A native of Berlin, Germany, Ishola tried out for NFL Europe but was encouraged to consider college football as his ticket into the NFL instead. Ishola enrolled at Indiana and rapidly developed skills that surpassed many players around him who had been playing the game most of their lives.
The 6-foot-three, 250-pound defender wasn't invited to the Combine, but following an eye-popping Pro Day, teams are now scrambling to figure out how Ishola was overlooked. He was clocked by some scouts in the 4.4's up to no higher than 4.51, put up 30 reps on the bench press, and did a 10-foot-1 broad jump. After scouts went back and saw that he had the film to support his athleticism, the phone started ringing.
Brad Leshnock and Joe Flanagan, Ishola's agents at BTI Sports Advisors, had to work diligently to get all the visits and workouts coordinated within a tight time frame. Ishola has made three visits this week alone, including his stop in Indianapolis to visit with the Colts.
One of Ishola's big draws is his versatility in addition to his readily apparent athleticism. "He's a productive guy who can play standing up or with his hand on the ground," Flanagan told us this week. "He's got upfield speed as a defensive end, good lateral quickness, obvious power, and very strong hands."
Flanagan pointed out that with more teams using hybrid defenses, players like Ishola become more valuable because he can legitimately play four to five spots.
"And it's amazing how many teams are looking at him at different spots," Flanagan added.
Ishola is the type of player who matches up well with Indianapolis when you consider the Cover 2 defensive scheme that Tony Dungy runs. And the Colts have shown that they like to use players on their defensive line who are capable of rotating in to different positions in different situations. They also have a need to infuse some additional talent into their linebacker corps.
"Ben Ishola is a good fit for the Colts because he's versatile and has a high level of athleticism," Flanagan said. "You look at what the Colts have done historically, they've thought outside of the box using speed, quickness and athleticism to their defense's advantage.
"You look at what they get out of their players, and while some of the standard issue measurables from a size, height, and weight factor don't add up, the athleticism is where the Colts seem to focus. And Ben is one of the most athletic people in this draft."
Ishola has only been playing football for four years even though he's 26 years old. And while that relative inexperience could be a drawback in some jobs, it's a plus to many NFL clubs who are looking for upside and potential in players.
"He's still learning football, and to see what he's been able to do against Ohio State-caliber linemen and to see him test as well as he has is a testament to his raw athleticism. The vast majority of teams look at his experience level versus the results he's already accomplished as a positive, because they can see that there's still a lot of player to unearth with Ben Ishola," Flanagan explained.
And as a result, fans in Indianapolis or whatever city that Ben Ishola lands in may be a bit surprised when they hear Ishola's name called on draft weekend. But they shouldn't be.
"He's one of those guys who will probably be drafted way earlier than the public believes," Flanagan said. "But his name is running rampant in NFL circles right now."