The Student Voice of Coastal Carolina University



Likely to make his Chants proud

Making waves away from Conway
Jacob Bashura
Isaiah Likely totes the ball after making a pregame catch against the Miami Dolphins.

Josh Norman, Mike Tolbert and Jerome Simpson are some names that may come to mind when thinking about professional football players from Coastal Carolina University.


A confident Carolina cornerback, an all-time great fullback, and the Bengals’ receiver who flipped over a defender into the endzone in that clip that circulated throughout the early 2010s.


As this NFL season’s playoffs push on, however, it’s highly likely that one big target who has made a name for himself started to take over the narrative when it comes to former Chanticleers in the big leagues.


Norman, Tolbert and Simpson among other NFL Coastal alumni, cycled through Conway years before the program transitioned from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the highly watched and regarded Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). It didn’t take the Chants long to find success in the FBS, as former head coach Jamey Chadwell and redshirt freshman quarterback at the time, Grayson McCall, burst onto the FBS scene in 2020.


Sporting an “America’s team” symbol for their appearance as an elite, fresh team out of nowhere, this coach and quarterback duo led the way to an undefeated regular season, a shared conference title with Louisiana-Lafayette, a College Gameday win over Brigham Young University (BYU) and a final ranking of 14th in the country. The breakout season was soiled only by a loss to Liberty University in overtime, with a final record of  11-1.


Aside from McCall and Chadwell’s leadership and time in the spotlight, this 2020 season was also instrumental in the development of a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior tight end from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who goes by the name of Isaiah Likely. Likely is currently on the Baltimore Ravens, representing Coastal in a way not many others have had the opportunity to.


“They can find you. Any school, any division, any program, any conference, anywhere. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a Power Five school for you to go to the NFL and be able to showcase your talents,” Likely said. ”As long as you can ball, as long as you can do what you do and your coach trusts you to put you in situations to showcase your potential, you can show them that they picked the right guy.”


In both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Likely caught five touchdown passes. During his freshman year in 2018, Likely played in seven games and these touchdowns accounted for five of his 12 catches of the season which amounted to 106 yards. The next season, he played in 12 games and tallied 32 catches for 431 yards in addition to the five scores.


Playing 11 games in 2020, Likely went for 30 catches, 601 yards and another five touchdowns. He averaged 20 yards per catch, a number that easily cleared the 8.8 and 13.5 of his freshman and sophomore years, respectively.


Likely’s former teammate and running back Reese White said Likely was only a sophomore when he first got to Coastal, but he saw his potential.


“When I got there, he was looked at as one of the leaders and he kind of took that role on better as the years went on and you know, everybody loved him, everybody looked up to him,” White said. “He looked out for us, we had a whole bunch of fun together and he always brought 100% to the field. At practice, he was always doing everything he could. I enjoyed having Isaiah as a teammate, so to see him excel at what he’s doing right now– it’s pretty cool.”


At this point after the 2020 season, there was a lot of buzz about Coastal Carolina as an emerging, talented, fun team to watch from Myrtle Beach. Not only that, but talk of the draft stock of the team’s freak-of-nature tight end, who could jump with anyone for a chunk play down the field at any point.


“His nag to get the ball out of the air, if you throw it up to him, more than likely, he’s going to catch that ball. He’s just a complete playmaker. He did it all the time in practice, did it all the time in games, so it’s no surprise that we can watch that on TV, him doing that for the Ravens,” White said. Beyond his talent on the field his teammates including running back Braydon Bennett admired his character.


“He’s really funny. He talks a lot, but he really don’t at the same time, I don’t know how to explain it. But he’s about business when it comes to football though, bro. He knows how to handle his stuff,” Bennett said. “His attitude, whatever he wanted to do, he was going to do that. Ain’t nobody could stop him, his mentality.” Coastal’s 2020 season was just the start.


The following 2021 season, the Chants went 11-2, and played in their second bowl game in program history at the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida. They came away with a thrilling last-second stop to beat Northern Illinois University, 47-41 for the first Chanticleer bowl win ever.


As much of a storyline as this team and its massive success for a second straight year was, the season of the star route-runner who wore number four was more than enough to steal the attention.


In 13 games, Likely finished with 59 receptions for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns. Included in these numbers were those from Likely’s massive performance at Arkansas State University.

“I think my favorite game would be the Arkansas State game where I went for 230 and four touchdowns,” Likely said.


In the game at Arkansas State, Likely racked up career highs with eight catches, 232 yards and four touchdowns, which was also a Coastal Carolina single-game record. If NFL teams didn’t have him on their radar before this, it was surely enough to turn their heads afterwards.


Embracing Coastal’s long-lived rivalry with Appalachian State University, he noted that a close second was the win they got over App State at home in 2020.


Fast forward to the 2022 NFL draft, Likely was drafted 139th overall in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens, where an established star of a tight end, Mark Andrews, awaited his arrival. There weren’t many better landing spots for a young tight end to continue to develop than under one of the best in the league.


His selection was the third highest in Coastal Carolina football history.


Likely is fifth all-time and first among tight ends in receiving yards at Coastal Carolina with 2,050, and sixth in receptions with 133. His 27 touchdowns as a Chant is second only to wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who scored 44 during his tenure in Conway.


In his rookie season, Likely had 36 receptions for 373 yards and three touchdowns, immediately making his mark. He quickly earned his place as an emerging fan-favorite among Ravens fans, and even developed a close relationship with quarterback Lamar Jackson.


“Lamar is a great mentor, he’s like a big brother. He tells me how to see it from his point of view because he holds the ball every snap in the game,” Likely said. “So, seeing things from his point of view and making sure we’re on the same page and going from there is definitely what causes me to be able to make those splash plays.”


This season, Andrews suffered an ankle injury on Nov. 16, which cost him the ability to play the rest of the regular season. Likely took this opportunity to step up and put the league on notice that he can put up numbers and highlights with the best.


In the last five weeks of the season, starting with the Ravens’ week 14 overtime win against the Los Angeles Rams, Likely caught 17 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns, after not scoring any for the first 13 weeks of the season. Andrews’ absence was a calling for the former Chanticleer tight end, and he answered.


In the team’s week 17 blowout and 56-19 win over the Miami Dolphins, he caught two of three targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns, including a one- handed grab that he took past multiple Dolphin defenders to the house.


“It was fourth down, I’d seen it was man coverage, I just got away from my defender, trying to be friendly for the quarterback and L trusted me to make a play on the ball so I made the play. I caught it with one hand and I just looked and I ain’t seen nothing but green grass and I told myself, ‘I gotta score,’” he said.


The Ravens have had a ton of success this year, finishing the regular season at 13-4 and them one seed in the AFC behind frontrunner most valuable player (MVP) candidate, Jackson.


In the Ravens’ first playoff game against the Texans following their round one bye, the score was tied at 10 by halftime. Thanks to a 24-0 run to end the game, however, the Ravens went on to win 34- 10. One of the three second half touchdowns was scored by none other than the Coastal Carolina graduate, who finished the contest with two catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.


Likely is only the second Coastal Carolina alumnus to score an NFL playoff touchdown, and he did so in his first playoff game ever. The only other CCU graduate to score a playoff touchdown was Mike Tolbert’s receiving touchdown in 2014 with the Carolina Panthers.


“It was a blessing being able to score, being able to play at home in front of the crowd, in front of my family, and then also being able to get the dub,” he said.

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