As he sits and talks about the differences during fall camp in an empty room in the impressive Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Facility, Utah offensive lineman Isaac Asiata’s voice trails off as he looks out the window. When he turns back to finish his thought, the conviction in his face is evident.
"It’s a difference I can’t explain," Asiata said. "You can feel it among the team members. The work ethic that’s there, and you know everybody’s giving 110%."
Asiata echoes a sentiment that has been heard a lot so far this week. The opinion that, summer conditioning has been the hardest he has ever experienced during his time at Utah.
"Compared to the last summer and how the workouts were, it was a lot harder this year," Asiata said. "From the runs, to the lifts, everyone got bigger, faster, and stronger."
The sophomore right guard/tackle admits he was somewhat worried about the speed of the new offense coming into fall camp, because the speed and pace being put into motion by new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen leaves no room for a lack of stamina. He went on to say the regimen that strength and conditioning coach Doug Elisia and his staff put the team through in July has paid dividends so far in fall camp.
The renewed dedication and team mindset seems to fit Asiata well. Among his peers, he’s known as a dedicated hard-worker who gives everything he has on and off of the field. He attributes his work ethic to his mother, a single parent that did everything she could to raise six children. It’s no secret that the grind of a Power Five conference athlete is difficult, to say the least, and when it gets to be too much, thinking about her keeps him going.
"It’s always been this way, since I started my high school career, anytime I hit a wall or anytime I wanted to give up, you know, I think about my mom," he said. "I learned my grind, from my mom’s grind. From when I was a very, very young age, all the way up until now. She’s still doing the same thing she did ever since I can remember. That’s what motivates me. When I think that what I’m doing is hard… it can’t compare to what my mom has been doing my whole life."
Growing up in Spanish Fork, the former two-time all state selection was" behind enemy lines." (Ok, maybe it wasn't that serious, but it was BYU country.) When asked him how he ended up at Utah, he said that while his friends and fellow teammates always talked about playing for the Y, he always knew he wanted to be in a Utes uniform.
"BYU is a great program, but Utah is whole different animal," Asiata said. "I liked that nastiness they showed at Utah, the program, the tradition, and the heritage they have here is great."
It didn't hurt that his cousins Matt and Shawn made names for themselves in Utah's recent success. Former special teams coach Jay Hill made a good impression by telling Asiata he had to continue the family legacy.
Asiata joined the Utes in 2011, and then left for an LDS church mission, returning in 2013. His faith is a big part of his life. It's a part of who he is and what keeps him going. Recent events in-state (Harvey Langi) have caused some people to question whether the University of Utah is as conducive to the LDS athlete as other in-state programs. Isaac feels this perception is incorrect and completely opposite from what he has come to experience.
"I think that's the biggest lie that people can tell," Asiata said. "That's one other thing that I love, it's how different everybody is here. From race all the way to religion."
In the short time spent talking about Asiata's experiences at Utah, it's clear he's found a second family on and off of the football field. It doesn't matter what part of the country they have come from or what they believe, they are all working toward the same goal.
"[Race and religion] None of that matters to me, your brothers are your brothers," Asiata said.
Fall camp will conclude in just less than three weeks, and the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder is currently in a heated battle on the right side of the offensive line. Regardless of where he ends up playing, he and his teammates have committed themselves to being better this season. They don’t just want to get to a bowl game. They want to turn heads, to show the doubters that they belong in the Pac-12. It started in January, it continued in July, and now it’s coming to what the team and fans alike, hope to be a glorious conclusion.