Isaiah Mack’s time as a football player for Northwest Whitfield High School is over.
However, it looks like Bruins fans won’t have to make a long drive if they want to see the standout defensive lineman play in college.
Mack has committed to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision program that competes in the Southern Conference. NCAA scholarship offers and commitments are non-binding until pen is put to paper on national signing day, which is Feb. 5, 2014.
But Mack was eager to make it known where he’s headed and told UTC coaches of his decision Wednesday. He called the college “a home away from home” after visiting with the Mocs two weeks ago.
“I kind of wanted to get (a commitment) out the way,” said Mack, who is also the starting 285-pounder for Northwest’s wrestling team and is preparing to compete in two prep football all-star games — the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl on Saturday in Atlanta and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic on Dec. 30 in Columbus.
Mack also touted the academic focus at UTC.
“I know if I go to UTC, then I’ll graduate from college,” he said, adding he has been offered a full scholarship.
Other schools who offered him scholarships, Mack said, included Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Kennesaw State and Tennessee Tech. He also said he talked with Indiana.
Mack finished this season with 121 tackles — 21 of those for a loss — 29 quarterback pressures, five forced fumbles and two sacks as the Bruins finished the regular season 9-2 and qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. He repeated as Region 7-4A’s Defensive Player of the Year, as selected by coaches.
Northwest coach Josh Robinson said he didn’t want to offer a straightforward opinion on any school in particular, because he didn’t want to deter Mack from a good fit — or vice versa.
“He’s the first real Division I kid we’ve had since I’ve been head coach,” Robinson said. “I advised him on picking somewhere he was comfortable with and felt comfortable with the coaches.”
He was also The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Player of the Year in 2012. This year’s all-area lineup and top player will be in the Dec. 24 edition of The Daily Citizen.
The Mocs finished this season 8-4 overall and 6-2 in conference play and won a share of the league title for the first time since 1984. They did not make the FCS Division I playoffs but played two games against teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest classification in college football. UTC beat Georgia State 42-14 and lost to then-No. 1 Alabama 49-0 in the Mocs’ last game of the season.
Northwest has had several players go on to play for the Mocs. Listed on the roster for this past season were two former Bruins — senior defensive back Dean Haynes and sophomore offensive lineman Synjen Herren.