Alabama cornerback Keenan Isaac is a Hornet despite deep ties to Alabama A&M

Keenan Isaac may not have grown up at the Magic City Classic. It just feels that way.

Isaac, a Birmingham native and midfield graduate, estimates he was three years old when he attended the first. For as long as he can remember, he hasn’t missed one since.

His support during Classic week and really all year has been solidly toward Alabama A&M. This is only natural considering his father is a former Bulldog football player and his mother is a university graduate. He went to homecoming and other Alabama A&M football games throughout his life.

He will play in the Magic City Classic for the fourth and final time on Saturday. However, he will not be in an Alabama A&M uniform. Isaac switched allegiances in 2018 when he signed to become an Alabama State Hornet.

“He wised up and went to the state of Alabama,” Hornet coach Eddie Robinson said during Wednesday’s Magic City Classic press conference while looking at Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor. “You all let him run, you didn’t even recruit him coach. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be an all-conference pick, a guy that’s going to play at the next level. He looks forward to closing out his Magic City career with another W.”

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Isaac will be one of the top players at Legion Field on Saturday, and with his size and athleticism at cornerback, he’s definitely on the NFL radar. In his first two seasons on campus, Isaac played in 22 games with 18 starts. He played just two games in the spring of 2021 due to an injury that led to surgery. He was on the sidelines last fall. He has 24 tackles, one tackle for loss, two interceptions and six pass breakups as a full-time starter at cornerback this season.

All of this is certainly part of his story. The main question on my mind at least this week is how in the world did he end up at Alabama State?

Perhaps the best answer is that recruiting is an inexact science.

Isaac was a two-man standout in the middle school and seemingly checked all the boxes for college football recruiting. However, he was easily recruited.

“I had a crazy recruiting process coming out of high school,” Isaac said. “I had a lot of looks, but when it came down to it, I only had two offers, which was Middle Tennessee and Alabama State. Because of my history with HBCUs, going to a lot of Classics and A&M homecomings and such, I loved HBCUs. So I chose the state of Alabama.”

Fifty-one weeks of the year, that’s not bad, then comes the week of the Magic City Classic.

“It’s always going to be a hostile environment this week – there’s going to be a lot of talking, a lot of joking between me and my family,” Isaac said. “It’s all love, at the end of the day.” They root for me, just as they root for Alabama A&M, being alumni. It’s always a lot of jokes, a lot of noise, a week of games.”

Last year, his family had shirts made that were two-tone. On one side it was maroon and said ‘Go Bulldogs’. The other side was black and gold with Isaac’s #10 jersey.

“It was pretty cool,” Isaac said.

Alabama State is 1-3 in the Magic City Classic since Isaac joined the program. The only win came last season and he had two interceptions in that game. He will carry with him special memories of that game, but also special memories of being an HBCU football player.

“It’s great,” Isaac said of SWAC’s growth over the past few years. “I think it’s deserved. It should have been like this for much longer. I’m just happy to be a part of the process as we improve and return to more focus.”

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