January 8, 2013

Kangaroo Mack?

Bruins standout lineman may play with all-stars in Australia

Devin Golden

— Northwest Whitfield defensive lineman Isaiah Mack had a breakout season in 2012, and someone from across the country noticed.

Now Mack has a chance to showcase his game on the other side of the world.

Mack has been invited by Down Under Sports to a week-long football tournament next summer in Australia. The organization is part of International Sports Specialists, Inc., which was founded in 1989 and started the Down Under Bowl the same year. It first reached out to Mack in October and selected him as one of Georgia’s representatives for the event.

The weeklong event, set for mid-July, will include players from throughout the United States and other countries, with the intention of helping expose Australia to American football. Each year the event has grown, starting with just four states and spreading to all 50. Mack said the format is a bracket-style tournament, with the Down Under Bowl the championship. Mack said he will get a three-day vacation to Hawaii afterward if he plays well enough.

“Right now I’m the only one in this area invited,” Mack said.

The Utah-based organization has similar tournaments for basketball, cheerleading and dance, cross country, track and field, volleyball and wrestling. Mack, who was named The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Player of the Year, was noticed on the gridiron.

He finished this past year, his junior season, with 136.5 tackles — 26.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage — 23 quarterback pressures and 7.5 sacks. He was voted the Region 7-4A defensive player of the year and also earned Georgia Sports Writers Association Class 4A all-state second team honors.

Down Under Sports’ formal invite came soon after the organization made its initial contact with Mack in October.

“We had to go through an orientation-type thing (online) to see if we’d even be interested in this sort of thing,” said Sequoyah Mack, Isaiah’s mother.

According to the event’s website (downundersports.com), alumni of the Down Under Bowl include former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer and former Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans running back Ahman Green. That’s part of the reason Mack wants to go, if possible.

“I’m kind of honored that they chose me and watched film of me playing,” he said. “It’d be an opportunity not just to play people from this country but also play people from (around the world).”

Northwest coach Josh Robinson said former Bruins standout Nermin Delic, who graduated in 2010 and played at Kentucky before transferring to Georgia State last year, was previously invited, although he ultimately didn’t go.

“We’ve had a couple kids invited before,” Robinson said. “When I called a few other coaches to see if they’ve had any dealings with it, they all said they didn’t.”

The coach also wanted to check with the GHSA to see if this would affect the limited number of all-star games Mack can participate in once his senior season finishes.

If Mack gets to go, he will play on the West Central Conference team, which will include players from many different states. However, Sequoyah, a nurse for Hamilton Medical Center and the Whitfield County Health Department, said she cannot afford the cost on her own and is asking friends and relatives for help. The total cost is right around $5,000, she said, and it must be paid in full by June. It includes travel, uniform, food and hotel expenses.

“I told them I wasn’t sure if we’d do it or not. I talked to Isaiah, and he said, ‘Well, it is a lot of money,’” she said. “I told him, ‘It seems like an opportunity, and if it is something I could get you into, then I’ll do my best.’”

Sponsorships for Mack’s trip can be made via credit card at downundersports.com