It'd be completely understandable if a defensive player wasn't exactly excited to go up against Quenton Nelson, either in practice or a game. The three-time All-Pro Colts guard has a proven track record of finishing blocks by hurling defenders into the turf.
And nobody wants to be on the wrong end of a highlight reel, after all.
But Isaac Rochell approached Nelson's piledriving prowess differently when the two were teammates at Notre Dame from 2014-2016. Rochell, in fact, relished the opportunity to square off against Nelson — especially with NFL eyes on them in practices in South Bend.
Now teammates again with Nelson with the Colts, Rochell explained his thinking on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
"My senior year, while I'm going through this transitional process and I know I'm going to the NFL, we have scouts at practice — I used to intentionally go against Q because I knew people loved Q, and I'm like, I want to go against Q then," Rochell said. "So back at Notre Dame, I used to love competing against him. Knew back then when he was young I knew he was going to be a great player.
"But I'm super excited to compete against him again. The dude is great."
Rochell said Nelson reached out after he signed with the Colts to offer help on getting settled in Indianapolis, but also added an encouraging message.
"When I talked to Q," Rochell said, "first thing he says is 'You're going to love the locker room. You're going to love the guys.'"
Rochell comes to the Colts after four years with the Los Angeles Chargers, where he totaled 74 tackles, 9 1/2 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for a loss in 51 games. Rochell played in all 16 of the Chargers' games every year from 2018-2020 and sees himself fitting as a versatile defensive end in Matt Eberflus' 4-3 scheme.
While Rochell said he hasn't done a deep dive into exactly what his responsibilities will be in the defense yet, he did say he's expecting to compete and that the scheme and team seem "like it's the perfect fit."
While Rochell and Nelson go way back, he does have other connections to the Colts. Safety Matthias Farley, a former Notre Dame teammate who played for the Colts from 2016-2018, lauded the culture in Indianapolis. Rochell also reached out to ex-Chargers teammate Philip Rivers — an "absolute legend," Rochell said — about the Colts, too.
Those conversations, as well as trading direct messages with DeForest Buckner on Instagram, clearly left a strong impression on Rochell about his new team.
"It starts with Chris Ballard," Rochell said. "He's set a standard for nutrition, for how you need to take care of your body — kind of all these other things outside of just learning a scheme. Because that's the easy part. You can go find a guy standing outside the 7-11 who can learn a scheme. It's everything else that makes teams great. So you've got great players and great leadership and you see the results of that."
Defensive end Isaac Rochell signs with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 free agency.