BIG RAPIDS — There was never any doubt about Brad Iskow’s unique combination of size and speed when he played four years of football for Bad Axe.
The question always was where to best use his ability.
Now, after four years of juggling positions in high school, the 2008 Bad Axe graduate has finally found a home at defensive end for Ferris State University.
In fact, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore has started the first three games this season for the Bulldogs. And it looks like he’s going to be a defensive cornerstone for the next few years for a program hoping to become a perennial contender in the super-competitive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“Brad has played very, very well for us,” said Ferris State defensive line coach Whitney Bell. “He’s grown so much from last year to this year. We have some high expectations for that young man. It just seems like he’s more comfortable at the position. He seems to be more relaxed and understands what he has to do.”
Iskow was a four-year standout for the Hatchets, but never found a position he could call his own. As a freshman and sophomore, he bounced around the offensive and defensive lines. As a junior, he made the move to tight end. As a senior, he split time at fullback and linebacker.
All that moving around made it tough for Iskow to excel at any one position.
“You have to remember that he never played the (defensive end) position in high school,” Bell said. “It was going to take some time to pick things up at this level. It’s not an easy position to play.”
Iskow says a year’s experience at one position has made a big difference.
“I think this year I have made a huge improvement over last year,” he said. “Things just seem to be clicking a lot faster for me. I feel like I am more fluid.
“In high school on defense, it was just like, ‘OK, go chase the guy with the ball.’ It’s so much different in college. You have your own specific job you have to do to make the defense better.”
So far this season, Iskow has 12 1/2 tackles, including 3 1/2 for losses and one sack. Iskow’s best game came in Week 2 against Saginaw Valley State when he had six tackles, including a sack, in the Bulldogs’ 21-17 upset of the 16th-ranked Cardinals.
Overall last season, Iskow had 22 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
A typical game week at Ferris State starts with a Sunday film session and weights. Monday is an off day, followed by Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices. Friday is reserved for travel, more film sessions and meetings.
Iskow credits Ferris State’s stringent weight training program for his gain in strength and stamina. Bell, whose motto is ‘live in the weight room,’ also is Ferris State’s strength and conditioning coach. Iskow says he’s gained roughly 40 pounds since high school.
“I feel like I am more physical and a lot tougher this year,” he said.
Bad Axe coach Dave Rowland isn’t surprised at Iskow’s college success.
“We always kind of thought Brad was going to be a special player,” he said. “The way he’s played so far at Ferris and what he’s done only confirms that. He’s a great kid. And the Bad Axe program is proud of his accomplishments...”
Bell says he sees Iskow making even bigger strides as the season goes on.
“He rushes the passer very, very well,” he said. “And he’s become so much more physical.
“I think he has to work on his overall knowledge of the game. But that’s something all young players need work on.
“But he’s such a big man. His body hasn’t even reached its potential yet. When it does, look out...”
Iskow endured a 1-10 campaign last season with the Bulldogs, who lost their final 10 games of the year. Ferris State is off to a nice 2-1 start this season, capped by a 34-28 win over Ohio Dominican last week. Tonight, the Bulldogs host Tiffin University.
“As a team, we’ve made a big improvement from last year,” Iskow said, “After losing those 10 straight games last year, we kind of came into this year with a chip on our shoulder. Beating Saginaw Valley was a great win for us, especially since they were nationally ranked.”
Iskow is looking forward to the next two-plus seasons with the Bulldogs.
“Honestly, I don’t know what I would do over here without football,” he said. “Football is such a big part of it now. If I wasn’t playing, and was just sitting around in my room, I think I’d be getting pretty fat.”
Iskow is the son of Jo and Mark Manenti and Leonard and Jill Iskow.
|2008 Bad Axe graduate Brad Iskow is starting at defensive end for the Ferris State University football team.|
|Ferris State defensive end Brad Iskow (95) makes a tackle against Saginaw Valley State University earlier this year.|