Maryland football's Andrew Isaacs took almost three years to bounce back from the 2014 knee injury that threatened his entire career.
As a sophomore tight end, Isaacs suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and LCL when then-quarterback C.J. Brown landed on his left leg at Syracuse. Isaacs missed the remainder of the 2014 campaign and the entire 2015 season.
Last year, he played sparingly on special teams, appearing in just five contests.
But after transitioning to the defensive line, Isaacs made three tackles and recorded 1.5 sacks against Towson on Saturday. The breakthrough came at an uncertain time for the Terps, who lost returning sack leader Jesse Aniebonam to a fractured ankle injury Sept. 2 at Texas.
"It's exciting," Isaacs said. "It's been a long road, and I've had a lot of struggles, but finally getting on the field and having a chance to help our team is one of the best feelings I've had in a while."
Toward the end of last year, Maryland's coaching staff approached Isaacs about changing positions to improve the depth of the defensive line. While Isaacs cherished the opportunity to earn more playing time, the move was challenging.
The redshirt senior played both defense and offense in high school, but said facing college athletes requires a different level of play. Plus, the position relies on more strategy than he anticipated.
"I didn't realize how technical playing defensive line is," Isaacs said. "Most people think you just run past people … but there's a lot of technique involved. A lot of thinking."
Isaacs said he's still learning the position. But his performance over the weekend indicates he could help fill the void created by Aniebonam's injury. The sidelined defensive end paced Maryland with nine sacks last year.
After the team announced Aniebonam would need surgery on his ankle, coach DJ Durkin emphasized the need for multiple players on the defensive line to show improvement in his place. Through two contests, seven Terps have recorded sacks.
"Everybody needs to step their game up," defensive lineman Kingsley Opara said. "[Aniebonam] was a big piece of what we were doing."
Isaacs generated the most surprising contribution from the Terps' pass rush, given his gruesome knee injury three years ago. However, he said he always envisioned a return with the Terps.
"I'm really happy for Andrew," linebacker Shane Cockerille said. "He's fought through a lot of things. To go out there and make that big play, that big sack and a couple of tackles … it's definitely rewarding."