‘Football is his life’: Passion fuels Bears draft pick Jaquan Brisker

The physical, aggressive Penn State safety — the 48th overall pick in the second round — already feels at home with the Bears and in their defense. “I loved the facilities. I just love the tradition.”

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Jaquan Brisker (1) had six tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups for Penn State last season.

Jaquan Brisker (1) had six tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups for Penn State last season.

Barry Reeger/AP

Jaquan Brisker and the Bears were a match, almost from the start. 

“Really, just the way I talked football with them,” said Brisker, the Penn State safety the Bears took with the 48th overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. “When we were in the combine, they asked me a lot of questions. I transferred a lot of information to them, and I think that kind of shocked them.” 

But it was on Brisker’s private visit after the combine that the connection was sealed for him. Brisker met with general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and safeties coach Andre Curtis.

“We had great conversations,” Brisker said. “Especially with [Curtis]. He taught me right away. We watched film, and there were a lot of things that he corrected me on, and I learned so fast, I’m like, ‘He could be my coach.’ ’’

Brisker laughed at the recollection of how quickly he felt comfortable with the Bears’ coaching staff. 

“It’s crazy because we really did have a great conversation. Home just felt like Chicago. It’s crazy saying that because I loved the facilities. I just love the tradition.” 

So begins what the Bears hope is a long-term relationship that helps fortify the new-look defense and secondary under Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams. 

The Bears are looking for the best fits for their defense, and on paper and on film, the 6-1, 206-pound Brisker projects as a complement to veteran Eddie Jackson. Brisker’s strength is his aggressiveness against the run, but he also has the athleticism to make plays on the ball. 

“[He’s] a big guy that’s physical,” Bears scout Chris Prescott said. “We like his toughness. He’s got speed, range, ball skills, plus he brings the physical side of the game that we like.” 

Brisker took the long way to the NFL. But that journey is what got him here. He was a standout player at Gateway High School in Monroesville, Pennsylvania, an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh. But academic issues prevented him from getting the top-flight scholarship offers he was looking for. So he spent two seasons playing junior-college football at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton. 

Those two seasons transformed Brisker’s life on multiple levels. He blossomed as a player at Lackawanna, where he was an NJCAA All-American in 2018 and became the No. 1 junior-college safety recruit in the country. 

“Just be humble from the beginning,” Brisker said. “I think me going through junior college helped me a lot. It helped me be more mature. Just helped me see where I was at.” 

Brisker made an immediate impact as a rotation player in 2019 but was even better as a starter his last two seasons in 2020 and 2021 at Penn State. He had 57 tackles, including three tackles for loss in 2020, when he was third-team All-Big Ten. He was at his best last season, when he had 64 tackles, including 5œ tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven pass breakups and was named to several All-America teams.

Brisker is a grandson of former ABA All-Star John Brisker, a tough, volatile shooting guard in the early 1970s who was known as the heavyweight champion of the ABA for his frequent altercations with opposing players. Jaquan has some of that aggressiveness and those hardscrabble qualities — though perhaps a little more refined. 

“It’s how he communicates; he’s very direct,” Prescott said. “You kind of feel a presence about him, so when you meet him, it’s just a good feeling. You feel a tough, hard-nosed kid. He’s a PhD — poor, hungry and desperate. Football is his life. There’s a lot to like about that when you see a guy who’s so passionate about football.”

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