My Free Press story on Isaia and recruiting
Michigan State Share

My Free Press story on Isaia and recruiting

Michigan State legacy commit used technology and social media to his advantage

Photo: Jacob Isaia

Jacob Isaia represents a new generation of college football recruits. The Michigan State commit used a modern method to handle exciting and puzzling experiences dealing with prospective coaches, programs and the media.


Click here for link to the Detroit Free Press story


Twitter.

Rather than sit by the relics of a home phone or mailbox, like his father and grandfather did before him, the third generation football player was like the Yelp of recruits, visiting programs, meeting with coaches and then reporting his updates.

This way he controlled the message on how his recruiting progressed.

Once Isaia was ready to wrap up the process, on Sept. 30 he posted on Twitter his verbal commitment to the Spartans.

“I was all business with Twitter,” said Isaia, ranked a three-star prospect with offers spanning the Power Five conferences. “You have to be careful with it. You don’t want to be caught in a photo at a party. My parents policed my Twitter page, but they didn’t need to.

Then he took advantage of the new NCAA early signing period on Dec. 20 with another post. By signing early, he alleviated recruiting pressure extending through this year’s traditional signing date, Feb. 7.

The social media technology helped reducing phone calls. If a coach or media member had a follow-up question, he used Twitter’s message function or sent a text.

Jacob’s father, former UCLA and NFL lineman Sale Isaia, was an Oceanside (Calif.) High senior in 1991. He wishes he had had a respite from the ringing of the family land-line phone.

“I was getting phone calls constantly,” said Sale. “I unplugged our phone when I was home. My mom would get mad. She’d say, ‘How am I going to get my calls?' ”

For his grandfather, Michigan State Hall-of-Fame fullback Bob Apisa, space-age technology was dawning his senior year in 1964 at Honolulu Farrington.

Telstar, the first satellite for telephone and TV communication, was launched in 1962. It wasn’t used for a live football broadcast from the mainland to Hawaii until the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State Game of the Century.

The social media technology helped reducing phone calls. If a coach or media member had a follow-up question, he used Twitter’s message function or sent a text.

Jacob’s father, former UCLA and NFL lineman Sale Isaia, was an Oceanside (Calif.) High senior in 1991. He wishes he had had a respite from the ringing of the family land-line phone.

“I was getting phone calls constantly,” said Sale. “I unplugged our phone when I was home. My mom would get mad. She’d say, ‘How am I going to get my calls?' ”

For his grandfather, Michigan State Hall-of-Fame fullback Bob Apisa, space-age technology was dawning his senior year in 1964 at Honolulu Farrington.

Telstar, the first satellite for telephone and TV communication, was launched in 1962. It wasn’t used for a live football broadcast from the mainland to Hawaii until the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State Game of the Century.

In Apisa’s decision day, he was scheduled to meet with Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty’s friend, University of Hawaii legendary player and retired coach Thomas Kaulukukui Sr., and a USC assistant coach. Kaulukukui made his MSU pitch, but the USC coach didn’t show up. If he tried to make a phone call, it didn’t get through.

“I thought USC had gone in another direction, but I found out later the coach missed his flight,” said Apisa, the first Samoan All-America pick. “It made my choice a lot easier. I thought it was best for me, my family, and the state of Hawaii. That’s how I looked at it. I ended up at Michigan State by fate.”

Isaia’s generation also uses digital video as an advantage. He e-mailed highlights to colleges he targeted. He didn’t have to rely on his high school coach to break down a game film and mail it.

Word-of-mouth was once a key to finding talent, but digital video combined with Internet websites and proliferation of spring and summer camps have diminished its sometimes capricious role.

Sale Isaia thinks back to a high school teammate, Junior Faave, he felt Pac-10 schools overlooked. Faave turned out to be a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference linebacker at Hawaii.

“He would have been heavily recruited today,” Sale said. “There also weren’t as many camps, and they were too expensive.”

Another function of camps can be solidifying a recruit’s ranking on recruiting websites. Isaia’s consistency was noted at the Polynesian Bowl last month by Rivals.com’s Adam Gorney.

“Three-star offensive lineman Jacob Isaia looked really solid during the Polynesian Bowl practices and that’s no surprise,” Gorney said on recent Rivals video. “For years I’ve seen him at numerous events, and he’s been one of the better offensive linemen at camps, seven-and-on seven events and games.”

In the video, Gorney noted the 6-foot-3 Isaia needed to add weight to his 272 pounds. Isaia soon posted on Twitter his tanks for the video with a side note, "I'm up to 285 now."

But one element that hasn’t changed is family support — or a lack of it. Jacob benefited from his father and grandfather both stepping back.

“I told him his mother, grandfather and I would support him wherever he went,” Sale said. “Even if he picked USC, UCLA’s rival, I told him, ‘I’ll be there for you.’ ”

The family joined Jacob on his September trip to Michigan State that ended with his commitment. Apisa broke into tears, but he wasn’t alone congratulating Jacob.

“My dad loves Michigan State,” Jacob said. “He’s all green and white."


I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom has also written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, Chargers.com, Rivals.com, and Gameday Central. He has won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003 and USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

Purchase Raye of Light from Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com or from August Publishing.

Media interviews  | Amazon customer reviews