The 2017 NFL Draft is set for Thursday, April 27th through Saturday, April 29th. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NFL journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from Utah Utes guard Isaac Asiata. Isaac took a different path through his college career, taking two years away from the game to go on a mission for his church, Church Of The Latter Day Saints. He was a four-year starter for the Utes, being selected to two All Pac-12 conference teams and winning the 2016 Morris Award honoring the league’s best offensive and defensive linemen.
I started playing football because I was bigger than everybody else. However, football was also an outlet for me as my parents were going through a divorce at that time and I didn’t really understand what that meant so football gave me an opportunity to get away. I took a year off because we moved, but got back into it when my best friend’s dad came up to me and said ‘my son plays quarterback and I want you to be in front of him because I don’t want him to get hurt’.
For some reason, I always built up a very strong relationship with the guys who were playing quarterback and because of those relationships I wanted to be an offensive lineman. I wanted to be that bodyguard, and I take a lot of pride in that mindset of protecting your quarterback.
When I was looking at schools, there was one thing that was really important to me: finding a group of guys that had each other’s backs, and were playing for the team instead of just playing for themselves. That’s exactly what I found at Utah. The only thing that really mattered to me is that when things got hard, and college football is hard anyone will tell you that, I wanted to have a group of guys that were there for you in those times, and at Utah, that was a big part of the program.
Off the field, it was even better because those guys were the same ones that came to my wedding. They are guys that I’m still close with to this day. Those are the best memories from my time at Utah, just knowing that no matter what, I’m going to be close to these guys.
My college football career was a little different than most as I took time in between my freshman season (redshirt 2011) and redshirt freshman year (2013) to do a two-year mission for my church.
Without a doubt, if I hadn’t served my church I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today, to be going into this draft and be a draft hopeful. My mission really helped me mature, it helped me look at things in life differently.
The two big, basic things that I believe my mission was all about were spreading the gospel and being in service to your fellow man. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about humility, hard work and really matured. It helped to set up my college career and now, going into the NFL Draft, it’s something that I look back on and am very grateful for the experience.
I had the opportunity to attend the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and it was a great experience. I went in with the goal of putting up the most reps on the bench to show off my strength, and, thanks to Roy Holmes at Exos, I was able to do exactly that. The guys at Exos did a great job of balancing both strength and speed training to get me ready for the combine.
The interview process at the combine actually gave me a pretty funny moment. You hear sometimes about guys getting these really weird questions and, while I didn’t get any of those, one of the coaches did start the interview by asking me, “How did you get your wife to marry you? You definitely outkicked your coverage.” Now, for those that don’t know, I’m not the best looking guy, but my wife is a 20 out of 10, so I just laughed and responded, “you’re absolutely right.”
We had a good laugh about it and that was great because, in those interviews, it can be extremely intimidating. You’ve got the GM, head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach all in there and you don’t really know what to expect. So, when they hit me with that question and we had a good laugh, I immediately felt more relaxed and comfortable.
As I’ve continued to prepare for the draft since the combine, my cousin, Matt Asiata, has been the big brother-esque motivator in my life right now. He shot me a text at the end of the season telling me I had a good season, putting together a solid tape and that now it was time to get ready for the Combine. While I was training, he texted me good luck and more motivational stuff to get ready for the combine. Now, he’s been talking to me about just going to work, being an Asiata, and providing for your family. He’s done a great job of setting an example for me to follow what he’s done.
He went undrafted, was with a team, got cut. Then he was working in a warehouse before being picked back up by a team and then he did really well with the Vikings. Just watching him and his relentless and determined attitude was huge for me. It’s nice for him to reassure me and give me those words of inspiration that I need now as I make my transition to the NFL.
I believe in being your own biggest critic and that can be a good and bad thing, but it’s only a bad thing if you don’t know how to use it. For me, as I get ready for the NFL, I know everybody knows that I’m a great run blocker, that I can move guys off the line.
I know that a big question mark with me is, “Can he pass protect?” I believe that I can. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve wanted to work on is my lateral speed; improving my quickness to be able to be an interior lineman at the next level.
I don’t want to ever be looked at as the guy who’s coming into the game and people are looking at me like ‘oh man, can’t believe that guy’s coming in.’ So I’ve been working really hard on my pass protection, rounding my game out there while also learning the center position just in case the team, in a pinch, needs me to play center. Versatility is one of the biggest strengths of my game in the fact that I can play both guard spots and center, and that’s what I believe I bring to any team that drafts me.
There are two guys that I have tried to model my game after. Former 49ers and current Cardinals guard Mike Iupati and former Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu. Iupati has a nastiness to his game that I’ve always tried to emulate while Kemoeatu was very agile for his size. That’s something that I always felt that I can do; move really well despite my size. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good as they are because they’re amazing, but I’d like to think that I can get there someday.