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Notre Dame Football

Recruiting Rewind: Foskey on potential path to Notre Dame greatness

April 20, 2020

This is the image, the resonance, of Isaiah Foskey.

In early March, days before the world was grinding to a de facto halt due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Foskey’s home in his native northern California, hitting the weight room at his powerhouse alma mater, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.).

A year in at Notre Dame, Foskey is utilizing his former high school’s stellar facilities to get in work.

Tangentially, Foskey’s also setting an example for those younger players --- some former teammates, others just rising in the program --- with his grueling session.

“Isaiah came into our weight room recently when he came home for spring break, and we had a couple laughs, couple jokes, and then he was grinding away in the weight room,” said De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh, head coach since 2013 and with more than 20 years on staff at the school. “Everybody was poking their heads in going, ‘Oh, is that Foskey? Hey, that’s Foskey.’ When they see him grinding away with other guys, that’s why he was a leader for us his junior and senior years. Guys gravitated towards him. And that’s why he will have an impact at Notre Dame moving forward. Our workouts were better than they had ever been, because Foskey worked out beforehand.”

Alumbaugh isn’t surprised now, nor was he at that time. Foskey’s career at De La Salle traces to a junior varsity beginning as a freshman; a burgeoning star at tight end as a sophomore.

Soon thereafter, however, Foskey’s time off the field was dwindling to virtually nonexistent.

“He was such a hard worker, he’s got that incredible frame,” Alumbaugh said. “His arms seem like they go on forever. He was physical, had that versatility and athleticism. We just thought, ‘This guy as a defensive end would give people nightmares.’ We worked him in some his sophomore year and by time he was a junior, we said, ‘We gotta get this guy in there all the time.’ His versatility was something you don’t want to waste

“He’s just such a likable kid. And his play, God, that guy never came off the field for us. Just so tough and physical and reliable. He would battle, state champions and some national games with our schedule, he would be battling a 300-pound tackle (on defense) and then turn around and battle a 270-pound defensive end. We would even flex him out at wide receiver.”

Even amidst its plan of red-shirting Foskey last season as a rookie, Notre Dame coaches nonetheless tailored specific game plans for the skill-set of the nearly 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pounder.

Going into the regular-season finale at Stanford, Foskey’s workload increased as a pass-rushing specialist.

“We think he can be a very special player,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said leading into that contest. “Certainly, we wouldn’t have saved him for this game. We feel the pass rush is going to be very, very important. We held him out of a couple games for that reason [to keep Foskey available and able to redshirt his first season]. We think he can impact our sub package, in particular. He’ll be a starter for us in that sub package, and we think he can influence the pass rush in a very positive way.”

It was special teams where Foskey most shined in that game that served as a veritable homecoming for the Northern California native; Foskey blocked a punt that helped catapult the Irish to a 45-24 runaway-victory.

It was a scene that reminded Alumbaugh of his talks with Foskey during his star pupil’s recruiting process.

Specifically, why Notre Dame was an ideal fit for Foskey – who’s poised to be a breakout-player along Notre Dame’s defensive front next season following the departures of stalwarts Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Jamir Jones.

“It was easy and obvious,” Alumbaugh said. “I talked to him on his trip to Notre Dame. We spoke for a little while, and he said, ‘This feels like De La Salle, this feels like home.’ I remember he said he feels comfortable with the general feel of the program and what it stood for, what the school stands for.

“It’s different. We’re different, too, at De La Salle. Notre Dame is different. When you say the words Notre Dame, it says something different. He told me it felt like home as soon as he was there. He knew he was going to go there pretty early on.”

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