MOBILE, Ala. — New York has seen what an undersize slot receiver from UMass can do. Victor Cruz helped the Giants win a Super Bowl. Now, can the Jets follow that same path?
Meet Andy Isabella, the speedy wide receiver who has turned heads this week at the Senior Bowl and put himself squarely on the radar of NFL teams, including the Jets. Isabella is just 5 feet 8, 186 pounds, but he has proved in his college career he can play with the big boys. He is reinforcing that message this week.
“Isabella has got something,” said Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who is coaching Isabella’s North team. “He is quick.”
That he is.
Isabella, a former high school track star in Ohio, made some headlines Tuesday when he said he ran a 4.26 hand-timed 40-yard dash during a recent training session. That would be close to the record of 4.22 that John Ross set at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
On Wednesday, Isabella, perhaps seeing the publicity he generated by saying that, backed off a bit. He said his only electronic-timed 40 was 4.39 seconds. That came in high school. He said his goal is to top that at next month’s combine.
There is no questioning Isabella’s production in college. He caught 102 passes for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns this season for the Minutemen. That led the FBS and he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver.
The Jets are looking for a slot receiver to fill the role in new coach Adam Gase’s offense that Danny Amendola filled in Miami and Jarvis Landry before him. Gase likes quick, shifty slot receivers.
“I think I would fit pretty well,” Isabella said. “I’ve watched the Dolphins a lot. Amendola does a great job for them. They have a bunch of little receivers they use with quick screens and stuff like that. I think I’d fit in well in that offense.”
Isabella said he has met with the Jets twice this week. Scouts not only rave about Isabella’s speed, but also his intelligence. He was a mechanical engineering major at UMass until being told he could not graduate in 3½ years in that program. He wanted to graduate in December so he could concentrate on the draft. So he switched his major. You’d figure he would pick something easy. Instead, he went with applied mathematics.
“It’s actually harder than engineering,” Isabella said.
Isabella knows teams are going to have reservations about his size.
“They probably do,” Isabella said. “But they’ve seen the tape of what I’ve put out. It’s out there. So, it’s their call.”
His best game came in his last in college. Against No. 5 Georgia, Isabella put on a show and proved he can compete with the nation’s best players. He had 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout loss. It was his sixth game of the season with 100 or more receiving yards.
“I just went out there and wasn’t worried about the score,” Isabella said. “I know the game got away from us [a 66-27 loss], but I was going to go out there and give everything I had in my last college game I was ever going to play. I was just having fun. I was relaxed. That’s what helped me do so well.”
Isabella is training for the draft with Hall of Famer Randy Moss. Isabella said he models his game after another speedster — Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill.
As for Cruz, he said he has met the former Giants star, at UMass, but does not know him well.
Like Cruz, who is 6 feet, Isabella plays much bigger than he is.
“My biggest strength is playing every play as hard as I can,” he said. “Sometimes I play too hard where I maybe get too jittery and lose concentration. I play hard every play. If I mess up, then I’m going to play the next play 10 times harder.”