Many football fans have probably seen the movie “Remember The Titans.” It is an all-time classic of sports cinema about a high school football team forced to integrate at the height of racial tensions in the 1960s and went on to win a state championship. This forced certain players to step up as leaders. None more so than linebacker Gerry Bertier. He embraced the role to such a degree that he went to his coaches about getting a teammate thrown off the squad for intentionally missing a block during a game. One wouldn’t expect that kind of accountability from a teenager, but Jaquan Brisker might be living proof.
The Chicago Bears selected the safety in the 2nd round of the draft last April. Their primary reasoning was his unique blend of size, athleticism, and instincts. He is a rare player that can do everything on the field well. Yet what might be often overlooked about him is his leadership. One of the reasons Penn State had such a stiff defense wasn’t just the talent. Brisker held teammates to a high standard and not being afraid to let them know when they were lagging.
That isn’t anything new.
He was doing stuff like that going all the way back to high school. Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic got a great story from Brisker’s former head coach at Lackawanna College. The defender wasn’t shy about calling him by phone often after practices to complain. Not about any personal issues. It always had to do with the team, mainly when it came to how much effort others were putting in.
As Lackawanna College head coach Mark Duda drove home for the night after practice during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he would inevitably get a call from his starting safety.
“We didn’t bring the energy we should’ve brought today,” Jaquan Brisker sometimes told his coach, or he’d point out a specific drill in which the team underperformed.
To Duda, a former NFL defensive lineman who’s entering his 30th year as head coach, this was rare. He has coached future NFL players, but this example of leadership and accountability was different.
“He just wanted to find out how to make it better than it was, which is really cool if you think about it, especially from a 19-year-old kid,” Duda said.
If Brisker was that way then, one can only imagine how he is now.
Even though he is a rookie, it doesn’t sound like the safety is shy about voicing his opinion. That might seem arrogant, but when the guy is making plays on the field, he is within his right to do so. Early indications from practice suggest Brisker is making plays every day. If that continues, don’t be surprised if he becomes more vocal on and off the field. The young man has a certain standard and expects everybody he plays with to keep it.
Jaquan Brisker has everything needed to be great.
There is never any telling whether a draft pick will pan out. It’s all one giant roll of the dice. Yet there can still often be early signs of whether a player will be good or not. Making plays as a rookie without the benefit of prior knowledge in a new defense is one example. Darnell Mooney did the same thing when he arrived back in 2020. No OTAs, minicamps, or preseason. Yet he still ended up setting the Bears rookie record for receptions.
Jaquan Brisker is charting a similar course. Coaches can’t help but sing his praises at every turn. Media members watching practice keep seeing him stand out. He refuses to be ignored. That is the sign of somebody that demands greatness from himself. It may not be long before that demand spreads to other teammates. Matt Eberflus talked about setting a high standard for this team. Brisker is precisely the player he’ll want to spread that message.