Ex-Gateway football standout JaQuan Brisker drawing Division I looks
It was just after noon on Nov. 24 when 2017 Gateway graduate and football standout JaQuan Brisker was finishing his lunch on the campus of Lackawanna College when he noticed coach Mark Duda called.
The missed phone call was big. Duda doesn't make phone calls to his players unless there's good news on the other end.
“I just got done eating and finishing up an apple juice around 12:15, and I was surrounded by other teammates. The last couple times he called me, he told me that I had offers, and when he called me he said that Pitt offered me,” said Brisker, who has six Division I offers in his short time at the junior college in Scranton. “I feel like it's a second chance, and I can't ruin it.”
It was all part of the plan for Brisker, and the attention from Pitt and West Virginia cemented the notion he was on the right path.
“I was very emotional just to hear a coach to give me another opportunity,” Brisker said. “I didn't have any words at all. It was the best news I've heard in a long time.”
Brisker, a safety, is making the best of his second chance. He's also earned a second chance to prove he is not only a Division I athlete but also a D-I student. When it was all said and done, Brisker received offers from Youngstown State, Toledo and Cal (Pa.) while at Gateway. But the 6-foot-3, 197-pound defensive back felt like he belonged on a bigger stage, and he had to travel an unorthodox route to get there.
“I came up here with one mission and one goal and that was to do well in school, do well on the field and move on to a better school,” Brisker said.
Two weeks prior to the Pitt offer, Brisker received another phone call from Duda with the news West Virginia offered. With Brisker's size, speed and hard-hitting style, Duda said all it took for West Virginia recruiters was two minutes of tape before they made the offer.
“There's nothing undersized about this kid,” said Duda, in his 25th season. “I think he'll get 50 offers and if they don't they don't, they're missing out. He's going to be the best safety in the country.”
Duda knows talent when he sees it. Lackawanna has proved to be a necessary stop for the Power-5 programs. Duda nurtured the talents and gave a boost to the careers of such NFL players such as Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White and former NFL offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.
“It's going to come fast and furious for him and by the time the spring comes, he's going a have a bunch places to go,” Duda said. “The kid is a great player and people are going to see a very talented guy go off and help somebody.”
It's hard to disagree. After weeks of preseason camp, the coaches gave Brisker mop-up time late in the game against Hudson Valley Community College when Brisker stepped in front of a Welsey Manning pass in the end zone and returned it 103 yards for a touchdown. It was at that point Brisker began to nudge his way into one of the starting safety spots.
“It was a red-zone play. They were on the 3-yard line, and they trips left,” Brisker said. “I picked it I was like, ‘I got to score and I got to show what I can do with the ball in my hands.' I knew I was I fast, and I kept running all the way to the end zone.”
Brisker has a knack for finding the ball in the air and attacking it. He led the Falcons in interceptions (four), returning two for touchdowns. Those numbers also lead the Northeast Football Conference.
“What makes him different is that he's not a basketball guy with cleats,” Duda said. “This kid can play.”
Brisker will have to wait until the end of the 2018-19 school year to make his next move. Once he decides on a college, he will have three years to complete his final two years of football eligibility.
“I find it hard to believe that he'll be redshirted because he's too good to be redshirted,” Duda said.
Toledo, Temple, Sacred Heart and Robert Morris have all put in there tenders for Brisker's services. Brisker said he's hoping for an offer from Penn State and some SEC schools.
“I want to be close to home,” Brisker said, “so Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia, and maybe a floater like Toledo and Temple, are up there.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.