Name: Isaac Rochell
College: Notre Dame
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Rochell gained a lot of unwanted weight after being drafted by the Chargers because the Mexican food in San Diego was so ‘on point.’
Rochell was born in McDonough, Georgia and went to High School at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, a private school in Georgia with enrollment fees close to $12,000 per year for Middle and High Schoolers. In 2012 Rochell played both ways as an OL and DL and helped lead the Chargers (yes, his High School team was genuinely called the Chargers) to a 12-1 record and their first ever State Championship. He was absolutely dominant, with 97 tackles and seven sacks in his Junior year alone, and it’s no surprise that Rochell was a 4* prospect on all the major recruiting sites, with interest from most major schools in the country, including Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia.
Considering Rochell had so many options open to him, many people were surprised when he decided to commit to Notre Dame, with some even asking Rochell “who is Notre Dame?” “A lot of people were like man, why are you going to Notre Dame, and what not. I definitely got a lot of criticism for the decision that I made.”
Rochell chose Notre Dame in part because he “wanted to go to a good academic school” with his mother being a school teacher, but he knew it was right for him when he visited. “The campus sells itself. It’s a unique place. You realize that there’s nothing like it and that’s when you fall in love.”
He saw some playing time in his Freshman year but really kicked things up a gear in his Sophomore campaign, starting all 13 games and recording 39 tackles (with 7.5 being for a loss) and 2.5 sacks. He’d also block a field goal in the Music City Bowl against LSU, which Notre Dame would go onto win by a field goal, 31-28. In his Junior year, he’d develop his game as a run stuffer even further, with his 63 tackles being the most for a Fighting Irish DL since 2007. He’d be named a Team Captain for his Senior year, in which he added another 55 tackles, although he couldn’t help Notre Dame finish any better than a disappointing 4-8.
The Chargers saw enough in Rochell to take him with their seventh round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and Rochell now comes to Los Angeles to fight for a roster spot amongst a crowded DL group.
Although Rochell is officially listed as a DE, I’d expect to see him see a fair share of work in practice as a DT in their new 4-3 scheme. A word I’d use to describe Rochell’s game right now is ‘limited.’ He should not be on the field on passing downs. At all. He had just 4.5 sacks in four years at Notre Dame, despite playing in 49 games, and he’s absolutely not a pass rusher. Having said that, I think there’s a fairly good chance that he makes the roster. Rochell is stout against the run and could carve out a role for himself as a two down DE/DT.
Lance Zierlein noted that Rochell “Gets good arm extension after contact. Has upper body strength to jolt blocker with his violent hands. Comes off ball with good bend and aggressiveness. Not easily out-leveraged against run blockers. Has enough natural power and anchor to play 5-technique in the pros. Length and upper body strength help his ground at point of attack. Shows ability to restrict his gap against the run. Tackle finisher when he gets to it.”
However, Zierlein also pointed out Rochell’s fallibility as a pass rusher, calling him a “Lunch-pail player from a blue-collar background whose effort and motor will make him a favorite of coaches he plays for. What Rochell offers in effort, he lacks as a skilled pass rusher, and his inability to get after the quarterback will create a difficult challenge for him.”
Reading scouting reports and watching what limited tape there is of Rochell, I feel like there’s a comparison to be drawn between him and ex-Charger Sean Lissemore. A seventh round pick in 2010, Lissemore was never the most talented, but had an excellent work ethic and motor, and was reasonably dependable against the run. There’s going to be a lot of competition amongst the DL this year for roster places, but if Rochell can impress in preseason as a run stopper you’d imagine the Chargers would place him on the 53 man roster and attempt to improve his pass rushing ability to turn him into a legitimate three down rotational DL.
Rochell has impressed in practices before, as he really stood out during Senior Bowl week this year:
Mayock complimenting Isaac Rochell from Notre Dame for his play on that snap. He had a fantastic week. Enormous motor.— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) January 28, 2017
Off the field, Rochell has a damn impressive resume. It’s hard enough to play football as well as be a full-time student, and Rochell played well enough to get drafted into the NFL while also graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government - but Rochell also added a boatload of extra-curricular activities to his resume. Rochell was one of the first two football players to serve on ‘The Shirt’ Committee. ‘The Shirt’ at Notre Dame is a shirt created every year to sell and fund Notre Dame student activities. The year Rochell was on the committee, they sold 164,800 Shirts - second most in school history. He also worked as a football team liaison, “helping to strengthen and build relationships on and off the field.”
Rochell worked as an intern for Stipp Law LLC (a law company co-founded by a Notre Dame alumna) for five months at the start of 2016, where he’d “research legal issue, review legal documents, shadow courtroom proceedings” as well as any other duties that he might be required to do. He also spent two weeks interning with ‘Street Beans’, a coffee shop that helps homeless youths gain insight in running a non-profit organization. When Rochell talked about academics being important to him, those weren’t just empty words. I’m too lazy to do an internship, and I don’t even have football commitments to attend to. Rochell has my respect.
Rochell was helping people off the field even as a High Schooler, as he spent his Senior year there leading a group of volunteers for ‘Together Works Nicaragua,’ a religious charity devoted to helping improve the lives of Nicaraguans. Rochell was a project coordinator for the ‘Missio Project’ and set about raising money (partly by creating a T-Shirt) and increasing awareness of global hunger and encourage individuals to ‘start the change.’
The culmination of Rochell’s near year-long commitment as a fundraiser was going to spend two weeks in Nicaragua as a fully fledged volunteer, helping to build things necessary for basic survival, including providing multiple families with sinks. That’s pretty awesome - and his volunteering didn’t stop after High School, either. Rochell was a volunteer for ‘Irish Around the Bend’ throughout his four years at Notre Dame, where he would “mentor local underprivileged teenagers in South Bend, Indiana and provide them advice on academic and family problems they encounter.”
When Rochell was training in Arizona in preparation for the NFL Combine, he had a lot of free time - so he bought a used camera and started taking photos. Considering he’s only been doing it for roughly half a year, he’s actually really good at it, too. Here are some of my favorite pictures he’s taken, but you can check out all his work here.
Rochell has also gotten heavily into something else recently - the Ketogenic diet. If you want to see Rochell talk about it, he made a YouTube video about it just yesterday, and it’s pretty cool to see him talk through his diet and actually show the process of making one of his milkshakes. Or, if you don’t want to watch the video:
Just did the math and I've ate 25 eggs in the last 24 hours— Isaac Rochell (@Isaacrochell90) July 8, 2017
I find it really hard not to root for Rochell. He’s a hard worker, smart, a good guy off the field, and also a bit of a philosopher:
Ronda Rousey is 5'7 135LBs— Isaac Rochell (@Isaacrochell90) June 25, 2017
I am 6'5 280LBs... would she beat me up @MikeyQuince
Good luck, Isaac. With making the roster, not the whole fighting Ronda Rousey thing. You’re on your own there.