Isaiah Land at Senior Bowl Photo by @djuanfotos

Florida A&M star Isaiah Land NFL Draft stock up after Senior Bowl

Isaiah Land thought playing at an HBCU would hold him back. The Florida A&M star couldn’t have been more wrong.

Just months after earning the Buck Buchanan Award for best FCS defensive player in the country, Florida A&M defensive end Isaiah Land declared himself open for offers as he explored leaving the school as he entered the NCAA transfer portal.  It was an immediate vulture-fest as Power Five schools made their pitches to the best defender in FCS, chock full of NIL and exposure incentives.

“After the (2022) NFL Draft,  I felt like the NFL wasn’t respecting us coming out of HBCUs,” Land said.  “The way they did Markquese (Bell) it just made me think that I needed to be somewhere else to achieve getting drafted.”  

Bell was a consensus All-American at FAMU and was considered a lock for the 2022 NFL Draft.  He went undrafted through seven rounds, but signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys and made the 53-man roster.

Fortunately for Florida A&M, Land would calm down and never make a visit to a school. 

 “I just couldn’t see myself playing with anyone else.  After everything settled down, I knew I wouldn’t want to wear any other colors or go play with anyone besides my brothers at FAMU,” Isaiah Land told HBCU Gameday.

Once that was settled, Land would focus in on getting ready for the 2022 football season. 

“I kept hearing scouts and other people telling me that the UNC game was going to be my chance to show them what I could do against a Power Five school,” said Land.  

That effort would flop miserably.

A shorthanded academics and compliance staff at FAMU would not be able to handle the load leading into the first game of the season and Land was one of 26 players deemed ineligible to play against UNC.  It was a major setback for Land who had all offseason looked forward to having that opportunity.

The next week, less than 24 hours before Florida A&M was to play Jackson State, Land was cleared to play by the NCAA.  It resulted in him entering the game without the reps and not being in game shape.  Coupled with 110+ degree weather at Hard Rock Stadium, he would be ineffective as he cramped severely in the heat.

From there he would return to his dominant self.  He would end the season as First Team All-SWAC and earn All-American honors on every reputable team and garner invites to the East-West Shrine Game, Reese’s Senior Bowl and most importantly, the NFL Combine.  Land was exactly where he needed to be.

Florida A&M player Isaiah Land at the Reese's Senior Bowl.  Photo by @djuanfotos

Isaiah Land takes a sideline break during the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Photos courtesy: @djuanFotos

Talking with HBCU Gameday’s Symone Stanley in an interview the day after the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Land was happy to be where he currently is.  

“I am grateful that I stayed (at FAMU).  I think it holds a lot more weight,” Land said.  “The first day there (Reese’s Senior Bowl) we had a parade where we had to put on our school jerseys.  People are used to seeing like Alabama and Oklahoma and stuff like that at these All-Star games.  When they saw me and Aubrey (Miller) they did a double take and were like ‘We got FAMU in here and Jackson State in here.’  They all started singing the ‘Who is SWAC song?’”

Isaiah Land definitely had something to prove to those who might not have known what he was capable of.

“When people lined up against me, I feel like he’s thinking he’s about to lock me up cause I got this FAMU stuff on.  So, it felt really good putting on a show and putting on a good performance and not just keeping up but actually excelling at my position.  It felt good to get the recognition from the coaches and the players,” he added.

Isaiah Land would get an unexpected challenge just days before the Reese’s Senior Bowl.  Coaches would call him in and ask him to do something he hadn’t done too much in college.  With injuries to the inside linebacking corps, they asked him to play inside linebacker.  He took the challenge and would be playing alongside Aubrey Miller.  It was something he quickly adjusted to with the help of Miller who helped him with his alignment and assignments.  It was an opportunity to show his versatility to the coaches and scouts, but it wasn’t a position he could show his expertise in pass rushing from.  He would excel at linebacker during the Reese’s Senior Bowl, but he was finally given one play to play defensive end…and he got a sack.

“I was getting impatient because we weren’t getting to third down where I might get a chance to go outside and play D-line.  We never got those third-and-long situations where I could move from inside linebacker,” Land said.  “I knew that whenever I got my chance on that edge I had to go get one.  I got literally one rep, one pass rush off the edge and I went and made the best of it and got me a sack.  That kinda made my day, made my whole week,” Land said.

To Land’s surprise all of the players and coaches celebrated his sack with him.  It was almost as if they were acknowledging who he was.

Isaiah Land is now preparing for Pro Day at Florida A&M and the NFL Combine.  As with many athletes preparing for the NFL Combine, he is training with specialists in South Florida.

Florida A&M star Isaiah Land NFL Draft stock up after Senior Bowl
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