Ormond Isom, a gentle giant off the field and a fierce player on, is helping lead Northeast High School to a successful season.
In most walks of life, Ormond Isom is anything but undersized.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior at Northeast High School towers over most people. And he’s broader than just about anyone you’ll see walking down the street. But believe it or not, when he’s on the football field, at least for his position, he’s a tad on the small side.
“The guys in the middle are usually the biggest, so I’m playing out of position a little bit, I guess,” said Isom, a starting center and defensive tackle on the Vikings. “When playing against other Public League schools, I’m not too small for the positions, but when we play other teams, like teams going for state championships, I’m a little undersized. I just try to outwork them, then it doesn’t matter how big you are.”
Isom and the rest of the linemen on Northeast are outworking just about everyone they play, and it’s why they’re enjoying so much success on the field.
Despite playing an ambitious schedule, Northeast improved to 3–2 with a 33–18 drubbing of Simon Gratz on Friday night.
Led by Isom at center, the Vikings dominated along the line. Northeast rushed for 277 yards on 61 attempts as it chewed up time, preventing the Bulldogs from getting their high-octane offense on the field.
When it was on the field, Gratz did little before Northeast enjoyed a 20–0 lead late in the second quarter.
“When you hit a guy and you can see in their eyes they don’t want to be hit anymore, that’s the best feeling,” Isom said. “That’s what you try to do when you’re on the line. You try to beat them, hit them as hard as you can.”
It also felt good to beat a team many consider to be one of the best in the Public League, a team that two years ago bested Northeast in the Public League championship game.
“It felt really good to beat them because a lot of people said they were the best in the Public League, or one of the best,” Isom said. “We try to win every game on the line. We have such a great line. It’s not just about talent, we try to outwork everyone and we have great chemistry. We’re all friends.”
That’s something that has come a long way.
Over the past year, the line has grown in the weight room, and also in the classroom, with their advisory period, which is essentially the same as a home room.
“All of the athletes have it together, and we go there, we talk, have fun, just become closer,” Isom said. “I think that makes a big difference. It makes us closer and then we play better together. It’s family, we are a family and we play for each other.”
The entire offensive line has helped Northeast’s run-heavy offense, and the Vikings have a lot of depth at tailback.
Along with featured back Danny Scott, Northeast uses Ubayd Steed and Saleem Thompson as ball carriers. Also in the mix is Jaye McNeil, who gained more than 1,000 yards during his sophomore and junior seasons at Archbishop Ryan before transferring to Northeast. He missed the early portion of the season with a knee injury but is now working his way into playing shape.
“We have a lot of guys who can run the ball and they work hard,” Isom said. “You never know who is going to get it. Whoever does, it’s our job to make sure they get yards.”
Isom has been opening up holes for the past two seasons, but this year he has other responsibilities.
Last year, when Northeast was a senior-heavy team, Isom allowed the older guys to take charge of the leadership role. This year, that falls on him.
“I could have done it last year, but that wasn’t what they needed from me so I just watched and learned,” said Isom, a West Philly resident. “This year, I definitely try to do it. We don’t need a guy to yell a lot because we’re all know what to do, but if it’s needed, I’m ready.”
And just because he’s a leader, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t need a little guidance. And Northeast has the perfect coach to mentor Isom.
Deion Barnes, a Penn State product who played for the New York Jets, has joined Phil Gormley’s staff. Isom is soaking up every piece of advice he can get from the former NFL defender.
“I’m so blessed to be able to have him here and ask him questions,” Isom said. “We have great coaches, but (Barnes) did what I want to do. I want to play in the league. I want to go as far as I can and it’s good to have someone like him to talk to.”
The NFL is the ultimate goal, but he has a backup plan.
He’s still in the process of picking a college, but he knows he wants to become a physical therapist someday after his playing days are over.
“I’m really interested in that because I’ve had a lot of injuries and I like seeing how you get better,” Isom said. “I hurt my hip playing baseball, I broke my left wrist when I was a freshman and I hurt my ankle playing basketball. All three injuries prepared me for studying pre-med or exercise science. It just seems like something I’d like.”
Another thing he’d like is a repeat of a Public League Class 6A championship and maybe even more.
Last year, Northeast fell to St. Joe’s Prep in the city title game.
This year, the goal is to win that and go even further.
“The Public League is good but we want to get to a point where we can beat anyone,” Isom said. “St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle, Imhotep, we want to play the best. We’re getting better and I think we can play with anyone.” ••