The overarching goal of The Hunt Report series is to spotlight the small-college prospect or the prospect playing professional ball outside of the United States borders that isn't the CFL. Personally speaking, it is the best part of the scouting process for me, being able to shed light and in some cases, uncover hidden football gems around the football world.
But what I really like seeing and hearing about are players who never give up on their dreams and/or the pursuit of playing ball professionally here in the states. Once their college careers are done and they embark on the professional football journey immediately, which includes postseason all-star games, scouting combines, pro days and personal workouts, many players find themselves left without a place to play as a professional. Some use this abrupt stop to the process as a sign to hang up their cleats. Others find an opportunity to continue to work on and better their game, in hopes to one day get that call.
That leads me to Donovan Isom, quarterback of the Berlin Rebels in the German Football League.
QB Donovan Isom (Berlin Rebels)
- Age: 28
- Height: 6-4
- Weight: 250
- College: Texas Wesleyan
When I first met Isom, it was at the 2020 College Gridiron Showcase in January of that year in Fort Worth, Texas. This was right before the world shut down for the coronavirus pandemic.
Here was the scouting report from my 2020 draft guide that I had on him coming out of Texas Wesleyan.
I was also able to sit down with him after the all-star game to get his thoughts on how he performed, what he has heard from scouts and what he was most excited about showing people with his pro day on the horizon.
So that was pre-draft, and the 2020 NFL Draft came and went, which we now know was a very unique draft that saw a lot of players return to school to take advantage of the free Covid-19 year of eligibility they were granted, and a lot of NFL teams kept their selections pretty much tight to players from FBS programs or those who played in major all-star bowl games. A lot of small-college players were squeezed out of the 2020 draft due to no fault of their own, as it was one of the smallest draft classes in draft history.
Isom didn't get selected, nor did he end up with any NFL opportunities that season, or any subsequent season for that matter. But he has been seen in workout videos throwing to Dez Bryant, who has been on record vouching for the quarterbacking talent of Isom.
As you may already know, I am always keeping tabs on American football leagues overseas and have been following the German Football League for a while now, as one of my former college teammates, Willie Robinson, was a championship coach for the Lübeck Cougars a few years ago in the GFL.
That's where I found Isom playing ball for the Berlin Rebels. Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to catch up with him and see how things went for him in Germany and how his football journey was coming along.
"Man, I've really enjoyed my time in Berlin the last two years," he said. "It's a different culture, you have to learn different things and it has been pretty cool."
He was in Berlin during the 2021 season, and this past season was his first full season with the Rebels. This season, offensively speaking, was excellent for both Isom and the Rebels, as he finished with 2,686 yards passing, 26 passing touchdowns to only four interceptions, and 10 rushing scores. The Rebels also finished the year third in total offense, their highest output in franchise history.
"My biggest thing was that I needed more film," Isom said when asked what went into his decision to go overseas and play. "I know I didn't have a lot of game film coming out of college, and not saying that the level I was playing at (NAIA) was bad, but I just needed more proof that I could compete at a higher level. And to be completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it has ended up being a huge blessing because I've made new friends, made great connections on that side of the world, learned a new culture, got better as a player.
"It's been a great experience and I'm a better player and person for it. I think for guys who are in my position, that really need somewhere to play ball, playing overseas is probably a great thing to do."
Now, it's not just about studying abroad, having some fantastic food and sightseeing; you have work to do while you are over there as a player. So I asked Isom where he feels as though he's made significant strides in his game.
"Most definitely more game experience! I feel like with me playing a full season, I've seen more coverages, learning different coverages and defenses, just me being a more complete quarterback. Being put in real situations was very important, as you don't get to do that when you're just working out, which is why this experience was needed and greatly appreciated."
Lastly, I asked him what advice he would offer up to current small-college football seniors who will soon be navigating these uncharted post-college waters. He simply said to "just stay the course and keep pushing through."
Wise words from a now more worldly Donovan Isom.
(For last week's Hunt Report, be sure to click here.)
QB Connor Degenhardt
- Year: Graduate student
- College: New Haven
- Height: 6-5
- Weight: 215
Sticking with the theme of continuing to work on one's game, Connor Degenhardt made his way to New Haven after a four-year career at Holy Cross where he was an All-Patriot League performer and team captain. Still, Degenhardt felt he needed more "time on task" as he arrived at New Haven in 2021, and he has been stellar the past two seasons, turning himself into a legit NFL prospect in the process. Last season he was named second-team All-Northeast 10 conference after posting 14 touchdowns to only four interceptions. And he's well on his way to being named all-conference again, as he's already surpassed last year's statistics with three games left in the regular season.
For a taller QB, Degenhardt is a very nimble player and good overall athlete. I believe he could excel well on boots and waggles, and also plays with good urgency in the pocket. He's solid on timing routes where the ball has to come out quickly, and he gets very good placement on those throws as well. Degenhardt is able to function well off play-action, turning his back to the defense, resetting his eyes and making the throw. What I'm a huge fan of is that he doesn't shy away from taking the shot downfield if he sees 1-on-1 coverage. He plays with the right amount of aggressiveness you want to see at the position. Next game: Oct. 29 vs. Assumption
RB Marques DeShields
- Year: Redshirt junior
- College: Rhode Island
- Height: 5-9
- Weight: 200
Decisiveness is one of the major pillars of being a top-notch tailback, and it's one of the major traits of DeShields as a runner. I was able to see him live against Monmouth and was blown away with the level of decisiveness within his game. He's a compactly-built runner who does not waste time before the line of scrimmage, in the hole, or once he gets past the second level. He's both quick and shifty, but is able to build up some explosiveness when he runs, showing the ability to power through would-be tacklers and weaker tackle attempts. DeShields has home run speed and is a very good downfield threat in the passing game. I had to go back and watch his film from both St. Francis and Lackawanna J.C. to cross check his abilities, and he was equally as dynamic at both places as he is with the Rams. Next game: Oct. 29 vs. William & Mary
CB John Smith
- Year: Senior
- College: Holy Cross
- Height: 5-11
- Weight: 190
An excellent slot defender on both ends of defense, Smith does a really good job of reading things out in front of him, triggering and subsequently driving on the football. He's a consistent open-field tackler who also can be an effective blitzer off the short corner. I like how aggressive he is in run support, showing the ability to spill correctly on pulling plays, or just flat out make the tackle himself. In coverage, he's got the requisite mirror-and-match skills you need to thrive on the inside at the professional level. He's got terrific ball skills and a knack for turning the ball over with 12 interceptions in his career up to this point. He showed up rather well this season vs. FBS competition in an upset win over Buffalo. Next game: Oct. 29 vs. Fordham
LB Zeke Vandenburgh
- Year: Senior
- College: Illinois State
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 235
A heck of a point-of-attack player, Vandenburgh does a really good job using his hands. Illinois State has him playing essentially on the line of scrimmage as a SAM backer, and he shows that he's more than capable of winning hand-to-hand combat with an offensive lineman or tight end. He's got really good athleticism to not be an awkward player in space. He gets really good depth in his zone drops and is rather fluid in that regard. When engaged with a blocker, you see him extend his arms, use his eyes well and quickly deploy a swipe, swim over or cross chop move to free himself from the block to get in on the play. Vandenburgh is able to also set a physical edge and get pressure the QB. Next game: Oct. 29 vs. North Dakota State
DL D.J. Adediwura
- Year: Senior
- College: Slippery Rock
- Height: 6'2
- Weight: 270
Slippery Rock always has a defensive lineman who catches your attention. This season, it's Adediwura. He's got fantastic football instincts and field vision. I like how he's able to play with his hands, eyes and feet in unison, which affords him the ability to make plays up-and-down the line of scrimmage. A fluid athlete, Adediwura is capable of playing with his hand off the ground or in the dirt. His initial punch on an offensive lineman, combined with his ability to extend his arms and run his feet, doesn't allow him to get reached by an offensive tackle. He also shows the ability to quickly disengage and chase the play. I like how he's got a few savvy ways of getting to the QB when asked to rush the passer. I'm excited to see which postseason all-star game he attends, as I'm sure he'll be one of the most talked about defenders. Next game: Oct. 29 vs. Clarion