Q&A with Jaquan Brisker, Penn State’s safety game to change the NFL

Ahead of the NFL Draft, coveted Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker talks about his JUCO run, NFL overtime and increased respect for defensive backs.

If there’s anyone about to talk about the state of in-game safeties today, it’s Jaquan Brisker.

Brisker is one of the top safety picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he’s expected to fade quickly in the first or second round.

There are already conversations as to why Kyle Hamilton shouldn’t be the first pick in the draft, and the answer is simple and frustrating: the job just doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

As Brisker notes, safeties are the “quarterbacks of the defense,” and hear a safety that had second-team All-American and first-team All-Big 10 standings commented last year. still undervalued says a lot about how the game is perceived today.

That hasn’t deterred the 23-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native on what has been a tough journey to the league. Brisker grew up at Lackawanna College before transferring to Penn State, a move that was rooted in the improved reputation Nittany Lions safeties have earned in the past. In 2021, the formidable safety suffered a shoulder injury which he ended up playing, a testament to his mental toughness.

By toppling the gang and improving his game, Brisker is now one of the job’s top prospects: a playmaker who could revolutionize the franchise lucky enough to land him.

Brisker sat down with FanSided ahead of the draft to discuss his time at Penn State, college football history, defending the reputation of defensive backs, and what it means to get a sponsorship deal with sleep number before the start of his NFL career.

fan side

We’re really excited to see you headed to the NFL Draft, but I was looking at your bio and saw you went to JUCO. We have a small idea of ​​what JUCO looks like from all the reality shows coming out today like Last Chance U, but I wanted to ask you: what was your JUCO experience like?

Jaquan Brisker

Very hard but I liked it. The people I met there – I met a lot of great people – but very difficult, you know, just a small town, really something to do. Not like Penn State, not like any other school like this. So really, you just gotta lock in, you know, just be a student and then you gotta be awesome on the football field. But really just, you know, you’re just here to mind your own business.

FS

What is one thing you learned from this experience that helped elevate your game at Penn State?

J.B.

I would say watch a movie. It was like learning to watch a movie for the first time. Coach Reiss, he did a great job helping me and driving me to Penn State. I just taught myself the tape, how to drop a tape.

FS

Obviously you have a lot of strengths going into the draft and you’re being targeted, but there are also weaknesses that people have seen. I’m just going to read a few: average route recognition, look at the quarterback, chasing angles can improve.

Do these comments motivate you as you head into the NFL, and how has watching the tape helped you with these things?

J.B.

Comments like that, sometimes they will get to me, but it’s more just about proving people wrong and running my business, just ticking a box. And watching a movie, it helped me a lot to know what to do and then to know what to look for, what to improve. And then also, I know my weaknesses and I know what I’m good at.

FS

Definitively. So you had this amazing career at Penn State, but after JUCO you were actually targeted by Alabama, which is another great football program. What made you choose Penn State over all those other schools?

J.B.

Just to change the narrative around defensive backs – come in and establish them and change everything about how they think about defensive backs. Simply Dominate: Go to Penn State and simply dominate. Show them they’ve never seen security like me, and especially up there [NFL Draft] scene, just change the narrative and just be different. Don’t be like the others.

FS

So tell me in your own words: what is the narrative you would like to change?

J.B.

I feel like people don’t think that Penn State DBs… I feel like they don’t respect DBs enough. Just by the way they’ve played before, just… not many DBs commit to Penn State. I feel like the narrative around defensive backs is that they’re not good enough. So just trying to change things like that, that they don’t have great safeties, which we do. So just prove a point.

FS

Obviously, there’s so much going on in your game, but what’s one thing in particular that you’ve done to help change that narrative at Penn State?

J.B.

Be consistent in my game. I would say be more consistent than any other defensive back in the country. Show my versatility in the running game, in the passing game, and show up every Saturday.

FS

Consistency is the key. And speaking of consistency, one of your biggest strengths is that you suffered a big shoulder injury in 2021.

What did you learn from that experience of playing with that injury because that’s something you might encounter in the NFL as well?

J.B.

Mental toughness, don’t give up. Do everything I can for my teammates and for my family. So go ahead, give it your all. Really, it always transfers to spring, and spring was the hardest thing in college football because it’s spring training, but that’s where you find out if you’re really tough or not and you prove it with your teammates.

FS

Speaking of your teammates, you have quite a few teammates who are also in the NFL Draft. We know Jahan Dotson, but there are so many others. You played with them, you were in the locker room with them — what are you excited for the rest of the NFL to learn about your Penn State teammates?

J.B.

That they are great players, especially off the pitch. You can always call them, they will always answer, they are always there because you know, they are great off the pitch: great character, do everything well. And then in the field, they will show up for you every Sunday. They will always show up. They come from a great program, so once they are developed they will become big stars.

FS

Yeah, and I’m excited to see how you’re all going to improve all those teams you join.

So last season you were part of a historic game, right? A loss in nine overtime, unfortunately, but you are part of college football history.

Now that the NFL has passed this new overtime rule, so what do you think – especially as a defensive back – of the new NFL overtime rules allowing both offenses to touch the ball?

J.B.

I’m not really used to it, probably not a fan. Just because obviously they want it to change, but if the defense did their job then they wouldn’t have to change the rules. Defenses have big shoulders for a reason, so if the defense just got stopped the first time around, we wouldn’t have to change the rules.

FS

How was it for you in this huge match, how was your defense and attack? How was that conversation after the game?

J.B.

I really couldn’t believe we were going to overtime and we really went on, went on for two, I think it was a really long game, and just the way everything was going, I don’t think people really liked the nine-overtime rule.

FS

You said consistency, right? Going through this multiple times takes a lot of stamina and consistency. It’s awesome.

I’d like to ask you: what are the NFL safeties you’re trying to model your game on?

J.B.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, Tyrann Matthew and NFL stars like Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Deion Sanders, people like that.

FS

Do you think we need to change the narrative a bit in the NFL and get a little more respect for defensive backs?

J.B.

Yes, I think so. I think we should be like, literally right behind a quarterback, just because we do the same amount of checks there. We had to refer to corners, linebackers, defensive linebackers, and we make a lot of calls there, and so does the quarterback. We are just as important as the quarterback. And then if someone scores, you know, everyone notices us – and if they don’t, that means the safeties did a great job. So I feel like our job is just as important as a quarterback’s job because when the quarterback throws an interception, everyone knows it. When a safety misses a touchdown, everyone notices, so we’re kind of in the same boat.

FS

I love that you bring it up because I completely agree with you on that. Definitely underrated and should be highlighted more, and I can’t wait for you to bring this in and get more attention for it.

But speaking of quarterbacks, Dak Prescott is obviously a huge face with Sleep Number, so I want to ask you about your partnership with Sleep Number. How has it helped you improve your game, and what do you expect in terms of rest and recovery as an NFL player?

J.B.

It helps me a lot to improve my game just because I get enough sleep which helps me perform and focus on the laser. And then, waiting to go to the NFL, it will be very important for me to recover, to make sure that my body recovers very well because getting enough sleep helps prevent injuries. It’s also going to improve my performance, because once I get enough sleep, I’m focused on the laser. And now I could move as I wanted. So really, just all aspects to help me recover. They will help me sleep better, but also improve my performance, which are all key points in becoming a big star.

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