If there's one thing Andy Isabella's proven since his days as a 5-foot-6 wide receiver at nearby Mayfield High, it's that he rises to the occasion, no matter the competition.
In high school, as one of the state's best track athletes, Isabella took down Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, then a star athlete at Nordonia High, in the Division I outdoor 100-meter dash. It was one of two state titles Isabella claimed as a senior but it's the one he was reminded of more than a handful of times last week at the 2019 Senior Bowl.
"I said I was winning this race," Isabella said. "I don't care who is on the track."
Isabella carried that mindset with him throughout his career at University of Massachusetts, a small football program that doesn't win much but occasionally pitted Isabella against some of the nation's best competition.
Every single time, Isabella, who now measures at 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds, delivered in the same way he did against a hodgepodge of lower level competition. It could be argued he was even better in those moments.
Isabella wouldn't have led the nation with 1,698 receiving yards if not for those breakout performances against the elites of college football.
"It was an awesome experience, just going up against a team like that is a different feel," Isabella said. "The game is way faster. I think I get more excited when you're playing against someone like that."
In the 2018 season opener against Georgia, Isabella racked up 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns, some of which came against projected first-round cornerback Deandre Baker. In a shootout against South Florida, he had 13 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown. The previous year against Mississippi State, he had seven receptions for 158 yards.
The results of all of those games were familiar, but Isabella, who had just one other Division I offer out of high school, left an impression on his opponents.
"What a player. I mean, he did a phenomenal job," Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm told reporters after Isabella's performance. "It didn't matter who we put on him, he was finding a way to get separation and get open. I don't know if he dropped a ball. I don't know if anybody else caught a ball. But he did awesome. It seemed like every time they threw it there he was again catching it. Man, great player, really exciting, really fun to watch."
The competition took another step up in Mobile, and Isabella delivered in customary fashion. He proved he belonged in the practices, lining up against some of the best senior defensive backs in the country on every single snap, and earned MVP honors for the North team in Saturday's game after catching seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.
After a successful time in Mobile, Isabella is headed back to Florida, where he's training with Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. He was one of the biggest names at the Senior Bowl, and he could very well make headlines at the NFL Combine next month if he clocks the times he expects in the 40-yard dash.
Isabella, who also claimed the high school state title in the indoor 60-meter dash, said he was electric-timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40 on a visit to the Air Force Academy when he was still in high school. He hopes to to break 4.3 seconds at the combine and said he would be disappointed if he clocked anything above 4.4.
A hundredth of a second here or there likely won't make the difference where Isabella lands on draft weekend. At every opportunity, he's proved he belongs with the best.
"It's gotten real that this is going to be my life hopefully for the next eight to 10 years, maybe more," Isabella said. "It's definitely getting realer and realer every day."