Los Angeles Charger defensive end Isaac Rochell is a second year player out of Notre Dame. He has an incredibly empowering and evolved mindset for such a young athlete; unlike many in the major pro sports scene, he seems to have gotten over himself!
Isaac describes how he transformed his body and his mindset by diving into the ketogenic diet in preparation for the NFL draft. In five months, he went from 23% body fat to 16%, and was selected in the third round of the draft by the LA Chargers. Isaac talks about his development as a young athlete and how he ended up at Notre Dame (“My mom made me visit, and I fell in love with the place, especially the tradition”), his emphasis on getting a degree (I wasn’t going all the way to cold South Bend and finish without a degree…”), and his evolved mindset about taking advantage of opportunity (“NCAA athletes in revenue sports may be exploited, but the athletes have to understand that they need to exploit that opportunity for a free education!”).
After surviving the dreaded 53-man cut at Chargers training camp, Isaac details the first true adversity he experienced as an athlete—being relegated to the practice squad early in the season. This small group of players are still technically on the team, but don’t suit up for games–extra players to go through the season with as ready stand-by’s. While many young athletes coming from the stardom of high school and college might make complaints and excuses, Isaac took the opportunity of his demotion to reflect. “I was definitely frustrated, but you have to self-evaluate in these situations.” Isaac’s reflective mindset and unwavering work ethic were the most lauded attributes by the NFL scouts. Asked how he made it all the way to the highest level of sport, Isaac relates: “Step one is just showing up, and then working hard when you get there.” Simple as that!
Isaac also talks about how the focus and discipline he applied to his ketogenic diet and physique transformation delivered benefits in many other areas of his life. In particular, it gave him a sense of control in a world where team sport professional athletes don’t have much control over their days or their destinies. Today his prominent dietary goal is to reduce inflammation, and he follows a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet that avoids sugar and dairy and emphasizes plants as well as fish and eggs.
Isaac describes his journey from South Carolina to Notre Dame to the NFL [00:02:46]
When thinking about getting into the NFL, he knew he wanted to do something about his body composition. He started the Keto diet. [00:06:42]
The agents for draft usually start after your junior season at college. How does it work? [00:10:45]
His body fat at 23 percent was not going to make it. What was the transformation? [00:15:01]
The next level of preparation has to be cognitive ability and intelligence. [00:17:41]
In high school how did you prepare for the dream of going into professional football? [00:18:49]
His best decision was to go to Notre Dame. [00:21:51]
What was the support system for players at Notre Dame? [00:25:24]
Life in the NFL is busy year around. What happens off-season? [00:27:43]
What is Isaac doing this off-season? Yoga, stretching, and concentration on his diet. [00:32:21]
The emphasis is on mobility and flexibility rather than weight lifting. [00:33:47]
The coaches for the Chargers are very open to suggestions from the guys to use to help the team. [00:34:23]
What is it like off the field for the young player? [00:36:07]
In his rookie year, he got sent down to the practice squad that was disappointing but was a good life lesson. [00:37:25]
Self-evaluation is a rare quality for such a young athlete. Don’t quit. Work hard. [00:43:07]
Most of the Chargers teammates are pretty humble guys. [00:45:32]
The universities are making multiple millions off of the college athletes. What are Isaac’s thoughts about that problem?[00:46:08]
How did the Keto transformation give him a sense of confidence and control over his life? [00:52:25]
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Speakers: Brad Kearns and Isaac Rochelle
Brad Kearns: Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
Isaac Rochelle:“So, that point of being successful is showing up. And I think if you can just manage this show up and when you’re there, work hard, good things will happen to you?”
“I’ve faced some adversity and it was a matter of responding. I had to look at it as an opportunity to capitalize. So, I think the guys that don’t pan out other than injuries, it’s a lot of just how they respond to a different situation.”
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Hi listeners. It gives me great pleasure to introduce a very interesting and impressive young man by the name of Isaac Rochelle. And he’s a defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers. Second year player, coming up on his second year out of the University of Notre Dame. And I’ve known this guy for a while because out of the blue, he wrote this very appreciative and enthusiastic email telling us that he had gone keto and he loved our message and our primal kitchen products. And we said, “Hey, how about some more?” So, we put them on the VIP list, man. If you’re in the NFL, you get the perks.
It was just such a pleasure to engage with this guy. He was very well spoken and polite and I arranged for some interviews for the Keto Reset Mastery course that we offer on ketoreset.com. All about how to go keto. And it was such an amazing story about he just took his life on. He had finished his football career up at Notre Dame and the scouts, the evaluators – it’s a very harsh process and they came in and said, “Look man, at 23% body fat, you’re not going to make it in the NFL. A defensive end has to be quick and explosive.” And so, he’s like, “All right, what do I do?”
And he went into the ketogenic diet with his trainer down at one of these performance institutes that they put the players in before the NFL Combine. And he just had such a focused and disciplined approach. He got this excess body fat off. He was prime for the Draft. He got picked in the seventh round and he was on his way to an NFL career. And you’ll hear some very interesting and amazing insights in this interview. I can’t believe.
Looking back when I was a young athlete and you know, something would go wrong. You’d have a misfortune, you’d get your butt kicked in a race. And our tendency, especially in the athletic world, is to have those protective mechanisms of the ego where you go and blame someone else.
Like, “The race organizer didn’t have good signs up and so I got lost, and that cost me my price check. Or these guys cheated on the bike ride. They drafted and that’s why I was so far behind. And boy, Isaac seems like he’s already gotten figured out at a young age. Because he talked about last year where he got cut. He got sent to the practice squad for a while. And he said, “Yeah, at first I was frustrated and then I just realized it was a great chance for self-evaluation.”
To me, to get into that headspace as an athlete, to have gotten over yourself already, just as a young player and to see this adversity as merely an opportunity to drill down and focus and get better, very, very impressive. I think the Chargers have a guy who’s going to be a valuable team player, a great asset in the locker room for a long time.
We’re so used to this distorted picture of the NFL as this huge athletes smashing into each other while the fans are screaming. And there’s so much more to the package of a guy unlike Isaac who has worked hard and gotten this far. Not just because he’s a great physical talent, but because he has the full package and all the pieces together, including the intelligence. Because they worked these guys hard, man. He had just come off an all-day session at the Chargers facility, and this is in the off-season before training camp starts. But there’s always something to work on and study and be disciplined and focused. And he talks about how the ketogenic diet was really a leverage point for him to become a more focused and more in control individual. He felt like he had more control over his life because he had control over his diet.
So, some really interesting insights from a young guy. I hope you enjoy the show. Go follow Isaac Rochelle on Instagram. And here he is after a long day of football doings at the Charger facility, telling us all how we can get over ourselves.
Let’s just get right into it. I want to just check in with you and see what life’s like for an NFL football player now. You’re in the groove and then get a little bit into your background about how you got to this point and cover some of the stuff that we talked about in those other videos because this is sort of a different purpose. But I like how that story of how you transform your body for the NFL Draft and took control of your life in the process and all that fun stuff. So, we’ll just see where it goes.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, first off, I’m great. We are in minicamp right now, so we just finished OTA’s, and then now we’re in minicamp. It’s just practices that are a little less intense. Obviously, you don’t have the stress of the season, which is super nice.
But a little bit about myself, I went to Notre Dame. I’m from Georgia. So, went all the way up to the cold in South Bend, went to Notre Dame. And then played there for four years, had a great experience. As many people know, Notre Dame has tons of tradition which makes for an unreal football experience. So, I love that.
Then like you had mentioned, after my senior season, I went into training for the Draft. And for me, a lot of that was me wanting to change my body composition. As far as health and eating habits, I didn’t really have any former knowledge. In college, I was eating three pizzas a week, like not caring at all. Which I mean, you don’t have to know anything about health to know that’s not good for you. But decided I needed to change my body composition and I had a trainer in Arizona who suggested doing the ketogenic diet.
So, I entered the process of changing my body composition at probably, I think it was 23% body fat which is not good for a D-lineman in the NFL. And did the keto diet for five months. And at the end of it, I think my best comp was 16%. So, a significant change, and a lot of that had to do with cutting out carbs and just fueling myself with things that were better and not going to cause me to have excess fat.
Then entered the Draft, ended up getting drafted in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Chargers. I came out here, and through that, I continued doing the keto diet. And went into the season, made the 53-man roster. And then after my first game essentially got fired. I was super frustrated and I got put on the practice squad. Looking back now, that was a huge point in my career and I think it’s helped me a lot now.
But did practice squad for some weeks and then ended up getting activated at the end of the season, and finished off the season right where I wanted to. But through that, again, with the health and eating habits, I continued doing the keto diet. And I think that also helped me through the season. My body composition continued to improve during the season and I actually was in great shape throughout the time that I was on practice squad. Like I had mentioned to you, Brad, after practices, I would come in and run a mile and I just felt really good. And I think a lot of that had to do with what I was putting in my body.
Went through the off-season, which was really nice. And Brad, we had talked about how important it is to take time off mentally. I really did that. And now, like I said, we’re OTA’s in minicamp and I’ve transitioned kind of into more of a plant-based diet just after doing research and stuff. I think that’s going to be the thing that’s going to reduce inflammation and fuel me the most for this season. So, that’s been good for me. But we’ll see what happens. But yeah, that’s the background.
Brad Kearns: Man, you’re teeing us up. I got so many questions for you. It’s so interesting. I guess we’ll start going back to that interesting time in your life where you play four years. You give your heart and soul to the fighting Irish and then I suppose at that time, there are some evaluators and some things going on where you are a possible Draft picked. I suppose if you’re interested in continuing your football career, these are things that you start to discuss after the final games over, is that how it works?
Isaac Rochelle:Oh, so, interestingly enough, the process starts pretty much immediately after your junior season and for some, immediately after your sophomore season. So, you start interviewing agents. You start getting feedback from the NFL and agents at that point. So, by the end of my senior season, I already had an agent chose. I hadn’t signed with an agent, but I knew who I was going to sign with and I kind of knew what was going to happen post-senior season.
So, it’s super interesting because you start talking to these people like before and during the most crucial season of your life. So, it adds an interesting twist and it adds unnecessary stress to the situation. But to answer your question, there’s a lot of things that are done prior to the senior season.
Brad Kearns: So, is this new Isaac? I thought in the old days that if an agent so much as looked in your direction or bought you a bagel, you were going to be an eligible. So, now there is some sort of organization to the process?
Isaac Rochelle:So, they still can’t buy you a bagel.
Brad Kearns: Can they get a house for your parents in San Diego if you’re a great running back at USC?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, they cannot. They definitely cannot. But you’re allowed to interview them. You can talk to them as much as you want. They just can’t give you anything. And so, I mean, I did probably 20 to 30 interviews with agents. So, like I said, they can’t do anything for you, but they can give you their time.
Brad Kearns: And what was that like? Was there a sleaze factor to a certain percent to them? I mean, how did you get one over by the last few that made the cut for the final decision?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, it’s just through interviewing and getting to know them. You interview people and as you go throughout the process, you learn things and you learn what you do and don’t want. And that kind of helped me. But going into it, I didn’t have a clue. Like I didn’t know what I was looking for and what I wasn’t looking for.
Brad Kearns: Now, are you sitting there just as a college kid meeting these suits in the dorm cafeteria or are you with your family members or certain advisors independent from the agent or what’s that all about?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, you’re saying what did it look like interviewing them?
Brad Kearns: Yeah, were you with anybody on your behalf like parents or I don’t know, one of the coaches or anything?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, initially it was just me kind of freestyling because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And then as the process continued, I asked my mom to help out a lot. So, she ended up conducting a lot of the interviews, and I kind of took a backseat to it because it was becoming overwhelming. But initially, like I said, I was just freestyling, just like interviewing people at Starbucks, whatever it may be. And that wasn’t a productive way to go about it. I would tell anybody to find somebody who’s smarter than you are, who has time to kind of like head the process for you.
Brad Kearns: Now, were these guys or girls or the potential agents were, were they being realistic or was it sort of this wine and dine sales pitch? Like, “Hey, you’re going to be a lottery pick or whatever.” How did that go?
Isaac Rochelle:It depends. Some agents try to tell you stuff that’s not true and wine and dine you. For me, it was the ones that were realistic and gave me like factual information. Those were the people that I liked. But people definitely kind of try to play the game and just feed you info.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. It’s such a harsh process. I don’t think many of us can relate to being up there on the chopping block. I mean, in the Combine, they literally parade you on stage in your underwear so that the scouts can take a look at you standing on a scale and getting measured to get your accurate height. And then this body fat concern, it seems like you took this thing on, head on. But it was like, really your 23% is not going to be NFL caliber and you got to do something about it.
So, you took this challenge on head on, and it’s so interesting how the process went. So, who recommended that again? Then how did it go to transform from Mr. Pizza guy in South Bend to getting really deep into the into the keto realm and carving up. And I love your Instagram. So, people have to go look at Isaac Rochelle Instagram and see that before and after, where it’s before 280 pounds and then after 280 pounds. It’s like the transformation from a football player and envisioning how much that affects your quickness, your fitness and what you did in such a short time to elevate your Draft start.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, my trainer in Arizona kind of like suggested that I do the keto diet. And I didn’t really know too much about it. And I just kind of went with it, and all my meals were planned. So, I ate what he gave me, and it really panned out to be a beneficial thing to do.
But like I mentioned to you last time we talked, my thing with diet, that I never really realized before was, if you can learn how to eat right and you can discipline your eating habits, it kind of spills over into other things in your life. And you see yourself being more disciplined in other categories.
So, it was just cool for me to take control of what I was doing and take control of my eating. And then I think it just taught me some discipline.
Brad Kearns: Well, you’re also working out extremely hard. Maybe harder than you did in college because you don’t have the classes. So, was it difficult to wean off of the pizza fast and into that carb restriction especially?
Isaac Rochelle:No, I don’t think it was. Just because like you said, I have more time to focus on my eating. And for me, like when I’m making a meal, I see that as a part of my job. Like I’m making something to benefit my body and my body is my job. So, I kind of just see it as part of my routine and part of what I need to do to get better.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. I remember you telling me something very interesting last time we talked down there in your home base near the LA Charger facility in Orange County, and how important it was to be intelligent as a professional player. And the amount of cognitive demand they place on you guys with all the meetings and the memorization. And I imagine as you’re preparing for the Draft, and it’s like a make or break thing. You’re going to be on stage in your underwear and they’re going to be checking you out in however many weeks’ time.
Is this someplace where some of these prospects and these great talents that you see in college and don’t pan out, can they just not get their act together to go to that next level?
Isaac Rochelle:I think sometimes that’s the case. But I think there’s just so many factors. A huge one would be like injuries. Like you don’t know what’s going to happen. And I think the biggest thing is like, no matter what your circumstances are and where are you going to get drafted, everyone’s going to face some type of adversity. And I think it’s just a matter of how you respond. Like I mentioned it when I was talking about my background. I faced some adversity and it was a matter of responding. So, I think the guys that don’t pan out other than injuries, it’s a lot of just how they respond to different situations.
Brad Kearns: So, tell me about the adversity, Isaac, going back into your high school days and at the same time, I’m wondering when you started to get those glimpses that you had this amazing upside that’s such a … it’s a one in a million shot literally for a high school footballer to make it all the way to the NFL. So, how did that process go for you?
Isaac Rochelle:I mean, I hate saying that it just kind of happened. I think it takes working hard, it takes luck and it takes just like continuing to move forward. And I think like things just have to fall in place. But for me, I had a really good structure at home. My parents were really good about encouraging me. They were big on not quitting stuff, and they were big about just whatever you do, make sure you work hard at it. And so, I think if you have that foundation like the sky’s the limit, whatever your potential is, you have a way better chance of meeting it if you don’t stop and you don’t quit and you just work hard.
So, that’s just kind of how it happened for me. And then obviously, going to Notre Dame, like my mom forced me to go visit Notre Dame, which was a huge factor. And then I ended up going there. And then I just played four years at Notre Dame and had fun and like I said, worked hard. And then I went to the NFL. So, it just kind of happened. But in that, it takes hard work and it takes just making a decision to not stop.
Brad Kearns: Wow, that’s fantastic. Because I think there’s a level of talent out there and when you’re playing at Division 1 BCS, you have so much talent that we have to examine further who makes it and who doesn’t. And I know the same thing was true for me in the triathlon scene. Where you’d see these guys that arguably had more talent than even the many of the best folks in the world, but they didn’t have the whole picture together. And you’re talking about keep going and you sound so breezy with your account of how you made it all the way to the NFL. But I think maybe that’s the secret right there. That you just never allowed that self-doubt and those discouraging thoughts to creep into your mind and you just kept going and kept strapping up.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. I mean, someone told me, like our defense coordinator always says like, step one to being successful is showing up. And I think if you can just manage to show up and when you’re there, work hard, good things will happen to you. I think you see a lot of guys that just don’t … they start something, they get frustrated and they quit, especially in high school. And then when they quit, they completely kill all their opportunity. And then a lot of guys show up, but they don’t work hard.
So, I think it takes both. I think it just takes showing up, having a good attitude and just working hard. And then good things happen. I mean, it’s hard to explain and it does sound breezy because it’s looking back. But that’s just kind of how it happened.
Brad Kearns: Speaking of showing up, so, you said your mom forced you to visit Notre Dame. So, that wasn’t on your hot list at first. Did you want to go to the Bulldogs or what was your deal when recruiting stuff was going on?
Isaac Rochelle:No, I was going to go to Clemson actually. I had pretty much told the coach that like I’m going to Clemson. And then my mom being from Minneapolis told me that I needed to go visit Notre Dame. And I got in the car and went and then fell in love with it. And I think it’s been the best decision in my life up to this point that I’ve made.
Brad Kearns: What was special about Notre Dame that perhaps you might not have received at another school?
Isaac Rochelle:I think the tradition, like I mentioned earlier, it’s a unique place because I feel like people don’t just happen to be Notre Dame fans. It’s very like strategic in a way. Like you’re a Notre Dame fan for a reason. Sometimes, it’s proximity, but there’s nothing in South Bend. So, it’s not like there’s tons of people there and tons of Notre Dame fans. People really love Notre Dame and it makes for a really unique game experience. So, I think that’s kind of like the thing that made it most special for me and made it extremely unique.
Brad Kearns: Oh my gosh, forget about South Bend. I mean, I used to go to the SC Notre Dame game at the coliseum every year when I was a kid growing up in LA. And you go to the game and half the stadium’s green and they’re like, “Who are these people? Why are they screaming so loud for a team from Indiana?” But the fan base is like all over the place and I don’t know if it’s the Irish heritage – I asked my friend who took me to the game, “Should I go over there since I’m Irish?” And it’s like, well, they somehow have a huge following and I can’t imagine that all those people are alumni. So, you’re right, it does have kind of a magic in the sports world. And boy, you have some definitely a rabid fan base.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I mean, I’m extremely biased, but Norte Dame fans, it’s crazy because like I said, like these people love Notre Dame, and they will die by Notre Dame. And so, for us, like as players … and you don’t realize until you leave how special it was because you started to see fans in the NFL and in other places aren’t as unique as Norte Dame fans. And we weren’t always the loudest stadium. And it wasn’t always the craziest game day experience, but there was something special about playing in the stadium.
Brad Kearns: I don’t want to distract you right now, man, because I know you’re all in with the athletic experience. But I wonder with this strong alumni base and the loyalty of that Notre Dame community, are you thinking beyond your athletic career and perhaps leveraging your time there and your high profile as an athlete into some type of career opportunity through the connections and through the community?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. I mean, of course.
Brad Kearns: Listen to this guy. Oh my gosh.
Isaac Rochelle:For me, it’s always leverage everything and the NFL is such a short window. So, for me, it’s connect with as many people as I can. Try to further my education because the NFL pays for it. And then try to influence people. So, it’s not just helping me, it’s what can I do for other people too. But I think the biggest thing for any NFL player to understand or anybody really anywhere, the window is short in a lot of things. So, it’s just a matter of taking advantage of whatever influence you have or whatever status you have when you can.
Brad Kearns: So, speaking of that, when this Draft thing comes up and the stakes are so high and it’s basically a do or die operation to get that body fat down and perform well in the Combine, did you leave school abruptly and head down to Arizona to immerse full time and how did that affect your track to graduate and so forth?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, well, I was graduated before I left. I don’t think my mom would have let me leave, but my thing was I wasn’t going to go all the way up to cold South Bend and not leave with a degree. So, I left December 14th and I finished my last exam December 11th. So, it was a quick turnaround. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have left that fast. But it was a learning experience. But to answer your question, I had my degree and I left as soon as I got it.
Brad Kearns: So, we hear this about Notre Dame. I know you said you’re extremely biased, but there seems to be a vastly more emphasis placed on academics. I know that the admission process is no guarantee for a football player because we had a superstar player, five-star recruit here in California from my son’s high school and he originally signed with Notre Dame, and there was some glitches in the process and it was no funny business. Where this guy had to alter his destiny because of the, apparently the admissions office getting involved and saying, “Oh no, we don’t just let football players in here. They got to earn it and get all their credits right and all that.”
Is this the legit real deal? And if you answer yes, what’s it like when you get there and go into this football program, which is so time consuming? How do they support you with resources on campus?
Isaac Rochelle:So, I mean, obviously, it’s not the same exact standards. But there’s still a higher standard for athletes to get into Notre Dame than there would be at another school. And then when you get there, they give you the resources and they give you the opportunity to get tutors and get help. But it’s kind of, you get out of it what you put in it. So, if you don’t need a tutor, you don’t want a tutor, they’re not going to make you get a tutor. And if you need a tutor and you don’t get one, you’re not going to have one. So, they give you the resources and information and it’s kind of on you to take advantage of it.
Brad Kearns: So, now, you’re fully into the NFL lifestyle. And I just wonder along with most of the listeners what it’s like. Because all we see is when we turn on the TV and watch the game or I guess now we see the HBO series of the players in training camps, so we have a much better sense than ever before. But what is day-to-day life like? And here we are deep into the off-season, but you’re very busy with the minicamps and the OTA. So, take us around the calendar of how the year looks for you as an NFL player.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, we’ll just start in January, January, if you’re not in playoffs, you’re off from January to April, which is very nice because you don’t have anything to do and obviously you can just focus on your body and focus on getting better without the pressure of a season. And then now we’re in the phase where it’s OTA’s in minicamp. And days, like OTA days, you get there in the morning, you have a special teams meeting. You have meetings up until about 10:00. Then you practice and usually you’re leaving the facility at about 1:30. And then after practice, there’s meetings too.
That’s pretty much the same schedule for minicamp. And then we’ll go into a phase for six weeks where we don’t have anything, which is mid-June through all of July. And then training camp starts in August. And then once that starts, you’re pretty much full go until January again.
Brad Kearns: And you talk about that off-season where you’re focusing on your personal development as a player, getting with your trainers and all that. Is that pretty much routine standard or some guys focusing on their ski boat or their trips to Europe?
Isaac Rochelle:Everybody does different things. I’m pleased with what I did in the off-season, and this year, it might look completely different last year. I think it’s kind of what you need mentally and physically. I think some guys mentally need time to not do anything, not think about football and go focus on their boat. Some guys start training two weeks after the season and they don’t stop until the season’s over the next year.
So, I think it just kind of depends person to person. For me, I focus a lot on doing yoga and stretching and then obviously like I’ve mentioned, my eating and just improving my body composition some more.
Brad Kearns: Wow, that’s an interesting answer. And it reminds me of this amazing quote I got from Julio Jones talking to Sports Illustrated, and they were asking him about his off-season eating and training regimen. And he said, “I don’t do anything, man. I’m beat up so much during the season that I just need to rest my mind and my body.” And I looked at and I thought, “You know what, this guy might be the trendsetter for the future.”
I personally believe that even at the highest level of professional athletics, there’s a huge danger of overtraining and generally overstimulating not just the body but the brain, to the extent that we forget about downtime. And we know the coaches are working their famous 18-hour days and sleeping on the couch in their office. And it’s possible that we might swing back into that balance where players are taking the off-season to do things like yoga. I mean, is this sort of stuff catching on?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I definitely think yoga and things like that are. But once again, Brad, I think it’s completely person to person. Like, for me, I can never take four months off and not do anything. That would stress me out more than working out everyday would. So, I think it just really depends on a person and their personality.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. The exact quote from Jones says, “I don’t have an off-season workout regimen. I don’t lift weights, I don’t run, I don’t do anything. I let my body rest.” But here’s the punchline, “I just eat good. I actually eat great.”
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I mean, if that’s what he can do, I wish I could do that. But I wasn’t blessed with those genes, so I have to keep grinding.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, that’s kind of your profile. I was reading up on your scouting reports, where they’re talking about every little element of your potential in the NFL and you’re highly lauded as a hard worker and an agreeable guy. So, I guess you feel that out and perhaps evolve your approach over time. There’s a lot of research now that the older athletes can get away with less training because they require longer recovery time and they do better with kind of just dialing things down. But I guess now you’re a young guy and you can manage that workload. And what are you working on this off-season? Like what’s your areas that you want to improve upon?
Isaac Rochelle:Oh, I think it’s just mobility, stretching, stretching, stretching. A huge focus, like I said, I’m doing yoga and just feeling good. Like I want to go into the season and feel good. When I go on the field and I warm up, I want to feel fluid and feel like I can do the things that my body should be able to do. And that’s something that I haven’t worked on in the past. And it helped me from January to April. It helped me with OTA’s and in minicamp. So, I’m trying to make another leap in July and it’ll help me in training camp.
Brad Kearns: So, actually stretching, like what kind of stretching protocol are we talking about? Dynamic stretching or traditional sit on the ground and touch your toes or what?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, so for me, it looks like yoga, like a lot of yoga. And then like, right now, when I’m in a phase where I’m practicing, I’ll practice, come home, eat lunch, relax, and then I go to the gym and roll out and stretch for 45 minutes to an hour. And then get in the steam room and relax my muscles and then go to sleep. So, it really just depends on the phase that I’m in. If I don’t have any practices, then I’m doing yoga three to four times a week. If I’m practicing, I’m just going to roll out and stretch at night for 45 minutes to an hour. So, it just depends
Brad Kearns: How much emphasis on the old school living, lifting the heavy bench press and throwing around the big iron?
Isaac Rochelle:You’re saying, what do I think about that?
Brad Kearns: Yeah.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I think there’s a time and a place for it. I think it’s just important to have a foundation. And then once you have a foundation, it’s about developing what you already have. So, some guys need to get to that point where they’re, like you said, throwing around a lot of weight and some guys can already throw around a lot of weight, so they don’t need to just continue to beat up their muscles and body. They need to focus on mobility and feeling good.
Brad Kearns: So, when you go into camp and you’re with the Chargers official staff at the training facility, is there a smooth integration to the stuff that you really like to do on your own or with your own handpicked trainers? Is that ever a conflict?
Isaac Rochelle:I can’t speak for everybody, but the Chargers do a good job of allowing guys to integrate their personal things that they have going on with the team. Coach Lynn is really open to learning about different methods and other people that are good at what they do. But I don’t know how it is at other teams though, but the Chargers do a really good job of allowing guys to bring in kind of their own people.
Brad Kearns: You mean bring them into the facility or just know that you like to do more yoga than the next guy, and so they kind of support that goal?
Isaac Rochelle:So, both. I mean, if you have something that you think is cutting-edge and that will help the team and you present it to our staff, they’ll look into it. They’re not going to shut down any idea, especially if it could help the team.
Brad Kearns: Wow, that’s cool, Isaac. I wonder if that’s across the board because it sounds really novel. I mean, so, if you brought in a bunch of primal kitchen salad dressing and said, “Hey guys, try this at lunch.” They might go for it?
Isaac Rochelle:The nutritionists are a little-
Brad Kearns: Oh really?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, it just depends on who you’re talking to. But like our staff that deals with your body and recovery and all of that, they’re really open-minded.
Brad Kearns: Okay. So, we have a picture of what life is like, the team own jiffer. Those six months from when training camp starts to the end of the playoffs or the end of the season. What’s it like off the field as a young guy? You’re in the NFL, you’re down there in the OC, hanging out by the beach and living the dream in many people’s estimation. Are you recognized over at Whole Foods or riding your cruiser bike on the beach or what’s it like down there?
Isaac Rochelle:It’s nice. I mean, I love being in OC. I live in Huntington Beach and it’s a nice spot to live. But it just depends. Like you go some places and they know you. You go to some places, they don’t. Some places are just like, “You’re huge. I know you do something.” It just depends on where you go. But because we’re not in LA, I think a lot of the people that would know us are up there, they’re not around us. So, it just depends though. But I love … I’m living near the beach and being in California has been unreal.
Brad Kearns: And I guess the Chargers are moving over to their new stadium some point soon in LA, right?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, I think it’s supposed to be done in 2020.
Brad Kearns: And where do you go in the off-season? Do you go back to home base or are you pretty much settled there in southern Cal?
Isaac Rochelle:So, I’ll travel a little bit for instance, in these six weeks, but I’ll be here for the majority of the time. Because I’m a big routine guy. I like to be in my routine before camp starts. So, that’s what I’m going to do.
Brad Kearns: So, you talked about last year, your rookie year, you drafted in the seventh round. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to make this 53-man roster. In fact, a lot of Draft picks just don’t catch on. So, you made that first incredible cut to the roster. How was that and then what was it like to get that practice squad noticed after the first game?
Isaac Rochelle:Initially, it was really exciting and then after the first week, I was really frustrated. But it was really important for my growth and like I’ve mentioned earlier in our conversation, the adversity piece, like that was some adversity. And like I said, I came to the facility every day frustrated, not with the staff but with myself, and I just challenged myself and it ended up working out in my favor. But I think it was important because up to that point in my career, I had never really been challenged. Like in Notre Dame, I was a captain in my senior year. I started for three years. In high school, I started like pretty much the whole time.
So, I think for me, it was a wakeup call. Like not everything in your football career and in life is just going to be given to you. So, it was cool. Looking back now, it seems like, wow, that was really cool. That was a learning experience. During it, I was really frustrated, but I’m definitely thankful for it.
Brad Kearns: Did you feel that it was inequitable, like they didn’t see your skills or weren’t given a chance to perform or did you like screw up in the first game and they yanked you out of the scene or how did that go down?
Isaac Rochelle:No, it was a numbers thing. I had a good first game and we just had too many D-linemen. I mean, I’m super strict with myself though in areas like this. Like even if I did think that they were mistreating me or short changing me, like if I’m in that position, I have to self-evaluate no matter what. So, regardless of what they were thinking, I had to look at it as an opportunity to capitalize and that’s what I did. But I don’t think they were short changing me or treating me unfairly. I think I needed to get better. So, I had no problem with their decision. I was just frustrated with myself.
Brad Kearns: So, the frustration, did it come from that maybe you didn’t work quite as hard as you possibly could have or something where you slipped and you knowingly self-evaluate and reflect?
Isaac Rochelle:I don’t know that it’s ever been a work ethic issue. I think it’s just more of focusing on different areas and changing my attitude. And I don’t think I ever came in the facility and I was arrogant or pretentious or anything like that. But I do think, I mean, that’s like a humbling experience to essentially get fired. So, I don’t know. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. It’s hard to give it a label. I just kind of had to like self-evaluate and figure out what needed to change.
Brad Kearns: And so, you’re there, you’re part of the entire process but you’re not suiting up for the games for this period of time that you’re on the practice squad. And does that change every week? Can you be called upon at any time?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, you’re always ready and it’s week to week in the NFL. And it’s like team to team. So, you could get cut from one team and get picked up by the next team and be playing the next Sunday for a different team. So, it’s really fluid.
Brad Kearns: But on the practice squad, you’re a property of the Chargers, so you’re not going to be leaving, you’re just waiting for that opportunity to get called up to uniform for the weekend game.
Isaac Rochelle:No, so, essentially you are a paid free agent when you are on practice squad. I’m like open for everybody to pick me up. I just didn’t end up getting picked up and like once again, that’s a numbers thing on all teams. But it ended up working out. I mean, I didn’t want to leave the Chargers. I like the organization and I like the coaches.
Brad Kearns: Right. So, I guess is your agent kind of working in a little bit just looking for opportunities if they present themselves while you’re in that limbo status?
Isaac Rochelle:Every agent does it different. But I think at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of the player showing up for practice, working hard and just doing what they can do to be ready.
Brad Kearns: So, the coaches are seeing this obviously, and you’re hanging on the practice squad with a big smile and the work ethic going through the season. And then what happened towards the end? You got called up?
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. And then I ended up playing the last four games. I was inactive for one of the four. And then the first game that I actually like played, I got a sack which was super cool. And yeah, it was just a cool ending to the season.
Brad Kearns: Giving you a nice boost coming into your second year.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I mean, the timing was perfect with it. But like all the things, you just restart. It’s like it’s a new day. The next day after that was a new day. I had to restart and just get back to the grind and it’s a new year. Last year for me, was a learning experience, but it’s over. And it’s in my mind insignificant. What’s significant and important is just the next seven months. So, it’s kind of just like, “All right, let’s restart.”
Brad Kearns: Yeah, I got to say, man, for a young guy to have this type of perspective, to know that you have to self-evaluate when you have these frustrations and these things that you didn’t plan on, it’s a very rare quality. And I think especially in this day and age where … I don’t know what to call it. People call it the entitlement generation and these kids are like leaving a job every 11 months because they see a better opportunity. And then they’re blaming left, right and upside down. When things don’t go their way, they have a story to tell.
It seems like you did the exact opposite on these occasions when you did experience adversity. And I would call that emerging from your senior season as the captain of the Notre Dame football team. And then someone calls you in, whether it was the trainer and saying, “Dude, at 23, you’re not going to get drafted – 23%, we got to take care of this issue.” And then you plunge right into it and just go forward and have that belief in yourself and that focus and dedication. Like who taught you that?
Isaac Rochelle:I think it just goes back to the foundation that I talked about. Like don’t quit and work hard. So, like, you face the adversity, “I’m not going to quit, I’m just going to keep grinding. I’m going to show up every day and when I’m there, I’m going to work hard.” And like I said, good things happen. And so, I just lean on that. But I appreciate you saying that.
Brad Kearns: I imagine your teammates, especially the veterans take notice of this and you’re probably highly respected for these reasons. Especially, probably, you’re seeing some of these folks coming in from NCAA stardom and showing up in the locker room like they already own it. So, it was probably a breath of fresh air in the locker room, positive energy in there.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. I mean, I certainly hope so. But regardless, it’s like the same thing though. I mean, whatever they think is their opinion. It’s just the same old, same old. I just got to show up. But I think it is nice. I think it gives people a transparent view of who you are if you’re showing up with a good attitude and you’re working hard. And I think that’s the most important thing for people to be able to just understand who you are as opposed to coming in with maybe a chip on your shoulder and being a little bit more arrogant. It almost puts up a wall. But yeah, it’s been interesting with my teammates. I really have good teammates though.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, I guess when you come across that type of athlete especially, it’s likely that they’re hiding the insecurity behind the arrogance unless they truly are … I mean, maybe if Tom Brady is straight out arrogant after his six Superbowl ring, you can go, “Okay, well, whatever.” But in most cases, you’re probably talking about an incomplete individual rather than a guy who’s the top of the heat.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. It just varies person to person. But in general, for the Chargers, we have some pretty humble guys. Like I said, they’re good dudes. So, I’ve been happy with my experience with my teammates.
Brad Kearns: So, let’s go back a little bit. I want to ask you some questions about the NCAA experience. And there’s so much controversy these days about the proper way to address this incredible inequity whereby the universities are making tens and hundreds of millions off of the great efforts of the student athletes. And yes, the student athletes are getting free education. But I wonder what your perspective is and if you have any comments, potential solutions to address this issue that’s only getting bigger and bigger as the deals come in. UCLA signed a $250 million-dollar deal, I believe with Under Armour to outfit the athletes and all the sports and it’s getting to be high stakes.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not in that sphere, so I don’t have the perfect solution. But if I had to give a solution, I think every player should have … one, I don’t think any player should get penalized for using their likeness. Two, I think every player should have a base pay. That could be a thousand dollars. That could be $10,000. It doesn’t really matter. I think there should be a set standard where if you are playing, you are going to get X amount of dollars, which they kind of have with cost of attendance.
Then I also think that you should have a player performance where the amount that you play, you will have an equivalent pay for that. And at every school, that will look different. But I think, if you’re on the field and you are contributing to selling out stadiums and contributing to the game experience, you should be getting some type of pay.
But that’s my opinion. That’s my, like, just thinking about it on my own. I don’t know though. It’s a tough situation. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer.
Brad Kearns: Dude, that’s so amazing because your solution is almost identical to what I propose. And I’ve thought about it a lot and it kind of addresses all the potential detractors – the criticism of what you propose.
First of all, speaking as a former NCAA Division 1 cross country runner, I don’t think we were bringing much revenue into the UC Santa Barbara coffers. But then you have a whole different category of athlete who’s playing in a revenue sport, so we can focus on them to begin with and everyone else. They’re getting an education. All of that stuff is a nice, fair trade for the water polo players and the women soccer players.
But when we talk about filling the stadium, then you have this issue. And I like how you mentioned that there shouldn’t be any penalty for exploiting your own name and likeness. So, if you’re good enough in college to do a deal with Sprite and get yourself on a billboard in South Bend, you should be able to pocket that money. And it seems preposterous from the old-time rules of the NCAA, but I don’t see a downside. Because if you’re not good enough or you’re the third string safety, you’re not going to get a Sprite deal, you’re not going to be on the billboard and there’s no problem in any direction.
But it seems like a cool solution to have that pay for play – excuse me, did I say that backwards? It’s play for pay.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. I mean, I agree with you. I mean, I think they should open it up a little bit. It’s kind of a joke where guys will say, “I can’t eat at night.” There are guys in college who cannot … they don’t have money to go eat meals and stuff at night. Like it shouldn’t be the way it is, but unfortunately it is. And I think it should definitely change.
Brad Kearns: Love the solution. Let’s hold our breath and see if the NCAA will come around with the pressure. Right now, it’s so disturbing. I mean, Josh Rosen, the UCLA quarterback that was a first round Draft pick, he got highly criticized for bothering to offer up an opinion that maybe there was some exploitation going on with the college athletes. And everybody thought he was a cry baby and he should just enjoy his free education.
But then when you’re cruising around LA and you see the city bus go by and it’s his name and likeness, number two, smiling at you with a big Under Armour poster, then you start to realize the incredible inequity involved with the leading athletes in the revenue sports.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a clear issue. I mean, I think it could not be any more evident that schools are exploiting players. But I think more importantly, if the rule doesn’t change, which it probably will not, I think it’s more important for the players to understand that they are being slided, and to not just casually go about getting an education. Like if I’m only getting “paid” a piece of paper, then I’m going to make that the best possible piece of paper I can make it.
So, I think it’s a double-edged sword where players need to understand that they are being exploited but don’t allow the school to exploit you. You exploit the school and you get the best education you can. And you challenge your coaches to let you take different classes. And you challenge the university to do things different.
But it’s a shame that players go to these schools and coaches and staff – and I’m not speaking for Notre Dame, because our staff was not like this. But they’re letting people influence them to downgrade their educational experience at schools for football, and they’re not getting paid.
So, it’s kind of interesting because like I said, it is the schools’ issue and it is the NCAA’s issue, but players need to not short change themselves. Let’s not have self-inflicted wounds when we already have issues with the NCAA.
Brad Kearns: That’s well said, man. I could imagine some kid coming in there and the coach says, “Hey, if you want to start next year, it would be really great to see you at the 8:00 AM strength training sessions all winter.” Whatever they’re putting in their head that deters them from having a well-rounded student athlete experience. So, good advice, man. That’s great.
Hey Isaac, before you go, I want to pick up a little more emphasis on that comment you made about how keto sort of allowed you to leverage into other areas of life with that improved focus and discipline. And especially the word “control” that you used because you describe a lifestyle here as an athlete where the team basically owns you and it’s obviously, you’re well-compensated and all that great stuff. But it is a lifestyle with minimal freedom in comparison to let’s say your peers from Notre Dame who have graduated, are working 40 hours a week, and the rest of the time they’re doing whatever they want to do on their jet ski.
So, tell us about how that dietary transformation became a bigger thing than just choosing different meals.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. So, I think it’s kind of a two-part response. I think the first one is, like you said, a lot of our schedules and a lot of the stuff we do is determined by the organization. Like today, I just got home. I’ve been doing stuff all day at the facility, which is fine because I love my job. But like we have little control in our scheduling. So, for me, it’s really profound to have control of my diet because it gives me a sense of confidence when I’m going about like my NFL experience. Because it’s like I don’t control my schedule. I don’t necessarily control the lifting that I do on there. I don’t control the practice structure and how my body’s taken care of from that perspective (which the Chargers do a good job of).
But if nothing else, I can control my eating. I’m not going to fuel myself with stuff that’s going to cause inflammation. I’m not going to fuel myself, that’s going to increase my body fat and slow me down. And I’m not going to fuel myself with sugars, which is just not good for you from any bodily perspective.
Then on the other side it’s like, all right/and anything in life, it’s very important to have control, because there’s so many things that go on in life that you can’t control, and stuff that you don’t even know that you can’t control because you don’t know it exists or it’s going on. So, it’s like, let me control my eating and let me be disciplined in that way and let me let that spill over and have control over other things and have discipline in other areas.
So, I just think it’s super important to have confidence that you have control of your eating. Like, “This is mine, I’m taking this and I’m going to positively affect my body.” I just think there’s a lot that goes into mental health from a food perspective. So, I don’t know, it’s just been really profound in my life to be able to just like, “All right, this is what I’m doing. I know it gives me good results and I completely control this.”
Brad Kearns: Oh, I love that. That’s very powerful. It sounds like you’re on this … your top priority, you mentioned it a couple of times was that anti-inflammatory aspect of the diet. So, what are the foods that are working for you and what are the ones that you mostly stay away from to achieve that goal and improve your recovery from stressful training?
Isaac Rochelle:So, right now or previously?
Brad Kearns: Yeah, like what’s your latest?
Isaac Rochelle:So, lately, like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of plant-based eating. So, I still do fish and I still do eggs because I just like eggs. They’re just a super easy solution to breakfast. Fish, I just like fish and it’s not as bad for you as some of the other meats. And for me, it started with, “Let me cut out dairy for sure,” because I think that causes inflammation. I’m not a scientist, I’ve just done my little bit of research. And then sugar for sure causes inflammation. And there’s tons of research on that. So, those two things I’ve cut out specifically. And then it just turned into like, “Well, if I’m not doing dairy, I might as well try to cut out red meat.” And then it’s like, “All right, well, if I’m not eating red meat, I might as well cut out chicken.”
So, we’ll see what happens. But from what I’ve done in the last month or so, plant-based has given me a lot of … it’s not completely plant-based. But my version of plant-based has given me a lot of energy. I’ve felt really good and from what I’ve noticed, my inflammation has gone down.
I also have some autoimmune issues that deal with inflammation. And so, that was kind of a catalyst to going dairy-free, sugar-free and now, more plant-based.
Brad Kearns: Clean eating, Isaac Rochelle, LA Chargers. Thank you so much for spending the time, man. It’s great to catch up with you. Love your attitude. So incredible. Watch out for number 98. He’s going to sack at any moment. I wish you the best in your second season with the Chargers. Follow this guy on Instagram, he’s got some great stuff and just a pleasure. So, keep up the good work. Thanks for spending the time with us, Isaac.
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