You don't need to sell Adam Breneman on the idea that Zayd Issah is a pretty good football player.
Breneman knows all about Issah firsthand.
"He's one of the best players I played against all year - him and [Bishop McDevitt Ohio State recruit] Noah Spence were the top two,'' said Breneman, the All-American tight end whose Cedar Cliff team dropped an exciting 35-31 decision to eventual PIAA Class AAAA champion Central Dauphin last fall when Issah rushed for 203 yards, scored four touchdowns and made nine tackles. "He's freakishly athletic and such a dynamic playmaker.
"I think he is very underrated by most recruiting sites. He should be a solid four-star.''
In a few months, Breneman won't have to worry about going up against Issah anymore. On Friday, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Pennsylvania Class AAAA co-player of the year, like Breneman several months ago, made a verbal commitment to be part of Penn State's 2013 recruiting class.
Although Issah has put up some gaudy offensive numbers in the last two years with the Rams, Penn State is bringing him in as an outside linebacker, the position at which most of the approximately 15 schools that offered scholarships were recruiting him.
Oregon - Issah was born in Portland, and the Ducks were his childhood favorite but didn't offer - Maryland and Arizona State were his other top schools. Pitt, Virginia and Purdue also recruited Issah hardest, while Boston College, UConn, Iowa, North Carolina State, Rutgers and Temple offered, as well.
Issah actually made his commitment during a vacation to Delaware.
"I just couldn't let that opportunity slip away. Right now, I don't have any that even pique or spike my interest,'' Issah, who claimed the third of probably four linebacker spots in this recruiting class, said. "They want me to play linebacker there, and it is 'Linebacker U.' Also, I have a sense of the direction the program is going in. Coach [Bill] O'Brien told me to expect Penn State to keep the tradition everyone loves - great defense, good academics, being accountable, doing things the right way - while bringing the program into the 21st Century.''
In Issah, Penn State is getting an athlete much like Maryland linebacker Zach Bradshaw, who committed two days earlier: rangy, with the frame to get bigger while maintaining speed - he's timed at 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
"For his size, he has excellent feet. He's quick. His first two steps are quick. He's got great instincts, and he's a very hard hitter,'' Central Dauphin coach Glen McNamee said. "He could be basically a defensive end [in our 4-4 set] and be like a safety on the next play.
"That's another thing. He's a smart kid. You can't play all those positions and not be cerebral.''
Playing the weakside, Issah made 123 tackles and 14 sacks while causing four fumbles, recovering three and picking off a pass.
"Zayd's exceptionally competitive and determined, and that will help him at a place like Penn State,'' McNamee said. "Penn State's getting a tremendous player, and Zayd's getting a tremendous program. It's a great marriage.''
Issah, whose father is from Ghana, was just as productive on offense. He rushed for 1,345 yards, caught 29 passes for 672 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in 2011 for the 15-1 Rams. As a sophomore, Issah amassed 1,653 yards rushing, including 251 in his varsity debut against Manheim Township.
Issah also started and was the second leading rebounder for a CD basketball team that made it to the state semifinals and is part of the Rams' track and field team. Arizona State was recruiting him to play H-back, and Purdue's scholarship offer gave him the option to play defense or offense, but he saw his future stopping ballcarriers.
"Coaches told me my highest ceiling is on defense, with my frame and my skillset,'' Issah, who was recruited by Larry Johnson, said. "I like hitting. I like contact. This was my first year playing defense. By the end of the year, it started to slow down for me and just feel natural.''
Wyomissing's Alex Anzalone and New Jersey's Al-Rasheed Benton appear to be the two best bets to round out the Lions' linebacker class. Anzalone posted on his Twitter page Sunday he'll announce his choice on July 7 or 8; he's also considering Notre Dame and Florida.
Issah is the third player from the Harrisburg area to commit to Penn State for this class, joining Breneman and Hershey offensive lineman Andrew Nelson. Teammate Evan Schwan, meanwhile, was a 2012 Lion recruit.
"It's great to go up there with guys I'm familiar with,'' Issah said.
McNamee gave him high marks for his character, saying Issah is very involved in the Rams' community service programs. That echoed Breneman's read on Issah.
"He's definitely a Penn State kid, very mature and just a great kid and a great teammate,'' Breneman said. "I knew Zayd was close to committing for a while. I was fired up when Zayd told me he was going to commit. He's a huge part of our class, and I can't wait to play with him.''