Daily Egyptian

Player profiles: SIU RB Daquan Isom is one tough Saluki

SIU+junior+running+back+Daquan+Isom+%285%29+runs+under+pressure+of+University+of+Northern+Iowa+junior+running+back+A.J.+Allen+Saturday%2C+Sept.+30%2C+2017%2C+during+the+Salukis%27+24-17+loss+against+the+University+of+Northern+Iowa+Panthers+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Dylan+Nelson+%7C+%40Dylan_Nelson99%29
SIU junior running back Daquan Isom (5) runs under pressure of University of Northern Iowa junior running back A.J. Allen Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, during the Salukis' 24-17 loss against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

SIU junior running back Daquan Isom (5) runs under pressure of University of Northern Iowa junior running back A.J. Allen Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, during the Salukis' 24-17 loss against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE

Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE

SIU junior running back Daquan Isom (5) runs under pressure of University of Northern Iowa junior running back A.J. Allen Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, during the Salukis' 24-17 loss against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. (Dylan Nelson | @Dylan_Nelson99)

By Nathan Dodd

The word “magic” typically circulates around everything that has to do with Orlando, Florida, invoking its professional basketball team or a towering castle at a kingdom that serves as every child’s dream vacation. For fans of SIU football, their taste of magic is lined up in the backfield every Saturday wearing jersey number five – Daquan Isom.

The man they call “Ice” has proven his value to the Salukis through his proficiency as a runner, pass-catcher and return specialist in the roughly two years he has worn the maroon and white.

Growing up, Isom’s friends tried to recruit him into playing basketball but his passion for football kept him away from the court.

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“The love of basketball was never there for me,” Isom said. “I felt like football was just me. I knew from the jump that it was me.”

Between first and second grade Isom began playing sandlot football, stating the sport was something that he found on his own.

“We moved to this neighborhood and everybody was always just outside playing football,” Isom said. “When I finally played, I found a love. After that, I couldn’t go in any other direction.”

After years of playing and learning about the game, Isom began to make a serious commitment to football between his fourth- and fifth-grade year of school. His junior high years were when he realized that he had the ability to go on to play collegiate football.

“I realized that this is what I want to do,” the junior running back said. “That’s when I started finding out about the NFL, college and other players that I wanted to be like.”

Yet, Isom’s football career did not always require him to run the football. He explained that he had to make the move to cornerback when he joined his first “good” team.

“The running back there had way more experience than me,” Isom said. “I watched and learned from him, though, and felt like I could do that too. I just had to transition my game from sandlot ball to actual football.”

He accomplished this task in no time, and as a sophomore in 2012 Isom played a pivotal role in leading the Apopka High School Blue Darters to the Class 8A State Championship game. Two touchdown scores by Isom in the game helped crown the Blue Darters state champions.

Isom described the state title as a journey that took him from the bottom to the top.

“I realized that it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Isom said. “We came together and we found a way to win.”

Following a senior season in which Isom ran for 1,440 yards and 17 touchdowns, the running back was named to the Central Florida Super60. The list is compiled annually and features the top 60 recruits in the central Florida area.

Along with being part of the Super60 list, Isom was named as a Class 8A All-State honorable mention. His impressive offensive stats placed Isom as the 56th-ranked all-purpose player in America.

Following his official visit to SIU, Isom’s dream of playing college football came true when he committed to Southern.

“I knew from how the recruiting process went that I would most likely come here,” Isom said. “Coach Hill is a good recruiter and is going to make you feel like he wants you here. Nobody else was doing that. Other schools were telling me that they want me, but they weren’t showing it the way SIU was.”

Isom made an immediate impact for the Salukis in his freshman year, collecting many honors along the way. He was selected as the MVFC Newcomer of the Week twice, finishing the season with the honor of being chosen as a member of the MVFC All-Newcomer team. As a return specialist, Isom was selected as second-team All-MFVC.

On pace for another remarkable season as a sophomore, Isom was leading the team in rushing — averaging roughly six yards per carry through the first five games — before his season was cut short by a hamstring injury.

“I never had an injury that made me sit out a whole season,” Isom said. “I feel like it made me stronger overall, because I didn’t give up.”

In his junior season this year, the running back has picked up right where he left off before the injury. He currently leads the Salukis with an average of 80 rushing yards per game on roughly five yards per carry.

The determination and grit that Isom has shown in getting back to game shape encompasses exactly what the SIU junior wants to prove to anyone that watches him play.

“I want to go down as one of the toughest Salukis,” Isom said.

This season, Isom’s main focus is on proving everyone that picked SIU to finish at the bottom of the MVFC wrong. The junior explained that he is not worried about earning any personal achievements, just helping lead the Salukis to the top of the conference and making Saluki Stadium “light up” for a playoff game.

As his collegiate career draws closer to a conclusion with each contest, Isom keeps his focus on improving his game and doing whatever it takes to help his team win.

“Wherever college takes me, that’s what it will be,” Isom said. “Everybody wants to play at the next level, but it’s all about the work you put in. That’s what you’re going to get out of it.”

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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