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A Look Back At Jaquan Brisker’s Steady Penn State Career

When you think of Jaquan Brisker, one of the first words that come to mind is “steady.” The safety was a model of consistency during his time in a Penn State uniform.

As a part of the well-established Lackawanna College-Penn State pipeline, Brisker arrived in Happy Valley for his junior year in 2019. It’s safe to say that ever since stepping foot on campus, Brisker exceeded expectations and then some by establishing himself as one of the best safeties in the country by the time of his departure.

Now with a prolific college career in the books, Brisker is poised to be a high draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s time to take a look back at how Brisker got here during his three-year tenure as a Nittany Lion.

As a Lackawanna College transfer, Brisker’s first season with the Nittany Lions in 2019 was in a backup role behind Lamont Wade and Garrett Taylor. He appeared in 13 games, and despite the limited role, tied for the most interceptions on the team with two.

Brisker’s first season in Happy Valley gave fans a glimpse of what was to come, as he totaled 31 tackles and four passes defended in addition to his two takeaways. While donning an unfamiliar No. 7, Brisker impressed in games against Buffalo, Iowa, Michigan State, and Memphis, among others.

With Taylor leaving the Nittany Lions following the 2019 season, it was Brisker’s time to step into a starting role heading into 2020. Brisker’s first year as a starter was an unusual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which took away spring ball for the Nittany Lions.

Despite being disadvantaged in multiple ways, Brisker didn’t let that impact his play on the field. He very quickly established himself as a reliable piece at the back end of Brent Pry’s defense. Brisker finished third on the team with 57 tackles in 2020 and paced the squad with five passes defended. He snagged an interception in the team’s win over Michigan State, too.

One of Brisker’s best games that season came in the Nittany Lions’ loss to the Hawkeyes. The up-and-coming safety posted eight tackles and a pass deflection, acting as one of the lone bright spots in the tough defeat.

Brisker, like the rest of the team, closed out that strange 2020 season the right way in the squad’s win over Illinois. He totaled seven tackles in the winning effort, and, if nothing else, put an exclamation point on a season that proved he can be a top-tier safety in college football. Pro Football Focus certainly thought so, too, and named Brisker a postseason first-team All-American.

Going into 2021, it was clear Brisker was one of the players Penn State would need to rely on if it hoped to have a bounce-back campaign. Now as the firm leader at the safety position, it was up to Brisker to take another step into stardom.

It’s safe to say Brisker started off the 2021 season with an absolute bang. After battling injuries throughout the season opener against Wisconsin, Brisker made an unreal play with Penn State’s defense backed up in the red zone to seal the game in its final moments and secure the Nittany Lions a win.

That was Brisker’s signature moment as a Nittany Lion, and from that point on, it was clear the safety was blossoming into a star.

Two weeks later against Auburn, in front of a White Out crowd, Brisker sealed the game once again, this time by knocking down a Bo Nix pass as time expired.

Not only was Brisker prolific at making plays in the secondary, but his prowess up near the line of scrimmage is what made him such a dynamic player. In that same Auburn game, he completely blew up a screen pass and dropped the receiver behind the line of scrimmage.

Two games later against Iowa, Brisker tied a career-high with nine tackles and hauled in his second interception of the season in the tough loss. Brisker led a defense that almost won the game basically by itself amid the problems on the offensive side of the ball.

The next week against Illinois, Brisker showed up again despite the heartbreaking, nine-overtime loss to the Fighting Illini. Brisker posted eight tackles, defended a pass, and scooped up his first career fumble recovery.

Despite some of Penn State’s struggles throughout the second half of the season, Brisker’s play remained elite. In his final game at Beaver Stadium, he totaled seven tackles and a pass defended in the Nittany Lions’ 28-0 win over Rutgers.

Then, in his last game in a Penn State uniform, he posted eight tackles in a close loss to Michigan State. He earned a plethora of postseason awards thanks to his play, including being named first-team All-Big Ten and receiving second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press.

From there, Brisker opted out of the Outback Bowl and declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.

In a way, Brisker was sort of like the Jahan Dotson of Penn State’s defense the past two seasons. He was the star of the unit, and he had a knack for making big-time plays in big moments. You know what they say — big-time players make big-time plays. That’s exactly what Brisker was during his time at Penn State.

Not only was he a great player, but he stepped up as an important leader for James Franklin’s team. Being a leader is something that stood out to Brisker himself, as he noted in his goodbye note to Penn State.

“To my coaches, thank you for developing me not just on the field but off the field, helping me become a better man,” Brisker wrote. “Thank you for believing in a JuCo kid and giving me the opportunity to be a leader at a great program.”

Brisker embraced being a leader for the Nittany Lions, and he was comfortable in that role. As he embarks on an NFL career, Brisker’s leadership and on-field skills should set him up for a lengthy and successful career at the next level.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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