New Razorback Isaac TeSlaa Sure Chose the Right NFL Team to Back for His Visit with Sam Pittman

Isaac TeSlaa

As much as Sam Pittman loves Hot Springs, through which so many fine thoroughbreds pass each year, the Arkansas football coach doesn’t have a horse in the race when it comes to NFL teams.

A native northeastern Oklahoman who grew up near the Arkansas border, his youth orbited around the Razorbacks and the Sooners. He’s coached at the high school, junior college and college levels, but never at the pro level. Yet, when it came time for him to play his card involving one particular NFL team to land a coveted transfer prospect, the 61-year-old made a game-sealing audible without hesitation.

The play happened in early January when Isaac TeSlaa, a 6’4 210 receiver from Michigan’s Hillsdale College who averaged 120.5 receiving yards per game in 2022, was visiting Fayetteville, home of a Razorback basketball program that has lately risen in 2023 national championship odds on WSN. TeSlaa, though, was of course there to check out the Arkansas football program as a potential transfer destination. During the visit, the rising senior was repping the Detroit Lions, the favorite team of him and his father, by wearing a No. 32 D’Andre Swift Lions jersey.

Well, what a coincidence that was, considering Pittman coached the Georgia offensive lines that paved the way for Swift to rack up huge numbers as a running back for Georgia in 2017-19. Pittman was still in contact with Swift and could get him on the line with TeSlaa, a Hudsonville, Michigan native.

A Detroit Lions Coincidence

First, though, Pittman wanted TeSlaa to meet three other Detroit Lions he had coached in college.

“I got talk to Dan Skipper, Jerry Jacobs, Frank Ragnow, and then he got D’Andre Swift on the phone too,” TeSlaa recalled in an interview with Locked on Razorbacks’ John Nabors. “So I got to FaceTime with all of them on my visit.”

“Pittman kind of pulled out all the stops,” he continued. “It was super cool.”

Arkansas football fans already knew Pittman was a good recruiter, having reeled No. 22 class in the most recent class and landing big-time transfers like Feleipe Franks, Drew Sanders and Dwight McGlothern over the years. One of those transfers who didn’t go as planned was Jerry Jacobs, a very talented cornerback out of Arkansas State who heavy minutes in the first three games of the Razorbacks’ 2020 season.

Jacobs “opted out” of the team after the third game with an undisclosed upper body injury and to prepare for the pros. “Just went through stuff,” Jacobs later during Arkansas football’s Pro Day. “My mind wasn’t there. I was losing it.”

Jacobs left campus right after the announcement and by the end of November he was living in Miami, preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. From afar, he had to watch his former backfield teammates get scorched in close loss to Missouri — a game he very well could have helped turn for Arkansas’ favor.

Regretting Quitting on Arkansas Football

Just a few months later, Jacobs said he regretted his decision to essentially quit “1,000 percent.”

The fact that he and Pittman stayed on good enough terms for Pittman to call him out of the blue (and silver) is notable. Clearly, Pittman isn’t one to burn bridges easily, which makes sense given that he can partially credit former players for getting him the Razorback head coaching job in the first place.

It’s also a testament to Pittman’s popularity that Swift, a former Georgia Bulldog, gave TeSlaa a simple directive: “He was just telling me to come to Arkansas.” To tell a recruit to play for a school you’ve never attended purely based on the head coach indicates the high regard in which Pittman is held.

In the end, these Lions’ pitches, the fans and all the rest worked. TeSlaa chose the Hogs over 13 other high major programs who had offered him, including three others to which he made visits: Iowa, Iowa State and Colorado.

Now, Razorback fans get to dream about how TeSlaa’s NFL frame and DII dominance could translate to the SEC in up to two years of remaining eligibility. As far as the caliber of receiver he is aiming to become, TeSlaa told Nabors that he likes the game of AJ Brown, the Eagles’ 6’1″ receiver “who can make plays down the field, but he can also get the ball and move on. So he’s also obviously a very strong receiver.”

Detroit Lions Who Were Arkansas Football Players

Frank Ragnow

Ragnow bounced back from an injury-plagued 2021 season to notch his second Pro Bowl selection with the Lions. The 2022 started slow for both Ragnow, who battled a groin injury and foot injury, but as he bounced back so did his his team at large, winning eight of their last 10 games.

Pro Football Focus tabbed him as the fifth-best center in football this season with an overall grade of 77.9 and a run-blocking grade of 78.9 for sixth-best in the league. According to The Athletic, his PFF pass-blocking grade ranked 18th among centers.

Dan Skipper

Skipper, the 6’9″ tackle, had a career-high five starts in 2022 for the Lions after a half decade in the league. The career back-up benefited from early-season injuries to interior linemen like Ragnow and gave him a way to finally stick around on a roster after getting signed to the Lions’ practice squad.

Before then, he just couldn’t find traction.

“It’s my sixth year in the league, and I’ve never made a team,” Skipper said early in the season. “It’s tough. You go in, and you’re never quite good enough. You’re not quite enough. You show up every day and you think you’re doing the right things and just for whatever reason, it just doesn’t quite work out. I think I’ve had 20 NFL contracts. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.”

“Skipper and Ragnow helped to power an offensive line that helped The Lions finished the 2022 season fourth in scoring, fourth in total offense, seventh in passing and 11th in rushing,” Tim Twentyman of wrote. “Detroit ended the year with the second fewest sacks allowed (23) in the league, just one behind Tampa Bay (22).”

“Detroit scored 30-or-more points in eight games this season, the most in the NFL and a new franchise record.”

Jerry Jacobs

Jacobs left the Razorbacks after only three games in the 2020 season and got raked over the coals for that decision some for that decision. He wasn’t, after all, actually drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

In the last two seasons, though, Jacobs has developed into perhaps the Lions’ most reliable cornerback. Jacobs started 10 games in 2021 and after a slow start in 2022 due to injury ended up recording 42 tackles, one sack, eight pass breakups and one interception over 12 games.

*Clyde Scott, the greatest Razorback football player and all-around athlete of the first half of the 20th century, mostly made his name on the NFL level with the Philadelphia Eagles. However, he did play five games for the 1952 NFL champion Detroit Lions. The Lions won three NFL titles in that decade but haven’t won an NFL championship since 1957.


Make sure to watch the entire Isaac TeSlaa interview with Nabors here:

More from Isaac TeSlaa

On academic and career plans:

“I’m majoring in exercise science and with that I’m thinking obviously if the NFL doesn’t work out, I want to be a physical therapist or maybe even a college coach. I haven’t entirely decided yet. So just kind of feeling that out.”

On Arkansas’ new (again) offensive coordinator Dan Enos:

“He’s very excited to be here and obviously he’s a very smart guy. He knows a lot about football and I feel like he brings a great scheme we’ve been in installing a little bit. So I’m just ready to get out on the field.”

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