By Chris Emma
(CBS) Four years ago, Isaac Rochell was a major recruit preparing for his future at Notre Dame.
A four-star defensive end prospect coming out of Georgia, Rochell was ready to embrace his new beginning in South Bend. Just last week, he was back down south having completed his career as Notre Dame as a senior captain playing in the Senior Bowl.
Rochell’s final season at Notre Dame was one filled with disappointment, with the Fighting Irish finishing 4-8. It helped him become stronger in his character.
“You got to know how to deal with it,” Rochell said last week in Mobile. “You got to know how to not fold and challenge other guys around you to not fold and keep getting better. Ultimately, that’s what it’s about, is getting better.
“It was definitely a learning opportunity, especially as a captain, trying to keep a team together. I’ve never had to do anything like that. I’ve never had a losing team like that, never had a losing season.”
Rochell arrived in Mobile last week as an NFL prospect with something to prove. He’s viewed as a Day 3 selection as fellow Notre Dame defensive end Jarron Jones is getting hype as a Day 2 pick.
So when Rochell took to Ladd-Peebles Stadium for practice, his motor was running. Rochell showed he’s quick on his feet for 290 pounds and can create leverage against NFL-sized tackles, something he proved against the massive Zach Banner from rival USC.
“If there’s a hint of doubt, you’re going to lose the rep,” Rochell said. “That’s just how it is. You kind of have to flip that switch. It’s something I love. I love the competition and I love the grit of it.”
Rochell worked with the Bears-coached North team, fitting naturally as a 3-4 5-technique in Vic Fangio’s defense. He embraced the coaching of Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and spent time getting to know head coach John Fox.
After making the move from Georgia to South Bend, Rochell has his hopes set on staying close to Notre Dame and moving down the road to Chicago.
“I would love to play for the Bears,” Rochell said unprovoked. “I really like their coaching staff, because they’re our coaching staff. And most of all, I would love to stay in the Midwest.
“It would be an awesome opportunity. I’ll be happy either way, wherever I’m at. But I think that would be unique.”
The Bears are looking to bolster their defensive line, and Rochell could be a mid-round option. He has ideal size to play the 5-technique and fit into any 3-4 defense. NFL evaluators were watching to form their own judgements.
Rochell got a feel for the NFL in Mobile. He was performing for the next level with coaches, general mangers, scouts and executives all evaluating each step.
Four years removed from signing to Notre Dame, Rochell is looking to reaching the next level.