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Isaia another Spartan in NFL mini-camp, although by way of Fresno State

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PHOTO: Fresno State offensive guard Jacob Isaia.

By TOM SHANAHAN

Add Fresno State’s Jacob Isaia, the grandson of Michigan State Hall of Famer Bob Apisa, to the list of former Spartans who earned a berth in an NFL minicamp this month.

The Los Angeles Chargers invited Isaia to their camp, May 10-12.

Isaia began his career at Michigan State in 2019 under Mark Dantonio as a freshman out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder earned three letters with the Spartans before he utilized the transfer portal. He was a starting guard at Fresno State the past two seasons, including on the Bulldogs’ 2022 Mountain West Championship team.

Isaia’s father was Sale Isaia, who played at UCLA and in the NFL. When his father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 50 on November 23, 2022. Isaia, after speaking with his grandfather, decided to play out the season to honor his father.

Fresno State beat Wyoming to clinch their Mountain West division and then traveled to Boise State to defeat the Broncos in the MWC title game. Fresno finish a 10-4 season with a No. 24 national ranking after defeating Washington State in the Jimmy Kimmel.

Apisa was college football’s first Samoan All-American player at Michigan State on the Spartans’ 1965 and 1966 national title teams. He was taken in the 1968 NFL by the Green Bay Packers, but college knee injures were too much to overcome.

Apisa was the most prominent recruit out of Duffy Daugherty’s Hawaiian Pipeline from 1955 to 1972. The talent pool, abandoned by past MSU coaches, was retapped this year by new coach Jonathan Smith with Rustin Young of St. Louis School in Honolulu and Kekai Burnett of Punahou School in Honolulu.

The transfer portal seems to be reduced to players moving on at a whim or for more NIL dollars, but Isaia’s experience has been example of its purpose. He wasn’t receiving playing time at Michigan State, but he emerged as a two-year starter with NFL opportunity.

Isaia, though, told me he enjoyed his time at Michigan State in a past story I wrote on him.

“It came down to wanting a change of scenery after four years,” he said. “I had fun at Michigan State. I made a lot of lifelong friends. I loved Coach (Mel) Tucker and Coach Kap (Chris Kapilovic, assistant head coach/offensive line coach). Coach Kap helped me a lot. I understand and love football even more because of him.

“Michigan State’s coaches understood where I was going and what I was trying to do. I got something more out of Michigan State than a degree. I made lifelong friends and memories.”

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