While weightlifting achievements do not make or measure a great football player, Isley Filiaga turned dozens of coaching heads with his on-field prowess during his recruiting daze. In the end, he signed with BYU on Feb. 4 and his former single-minded dedication to weight room achievement has been replaced with a single-minded focus on gaining Div. 1 academic eligibility so he can suit up for the Cougars this fall.
To put it politely, Filiaga was a longshot to be academically eligible when he started his senior year with an accumulated GPA of 1.8. "I currently have a 2.3 core GPA (and 18 on the ACT test). At the beginning of my senior year, I'm not sure what my core GPA was. I go to a tutor down in Provo who's been helping to raise my (ACT) math score. I've been going through everything else by myself with my ACT test book."
Filiaga has two more opportunities to increase his ACT score, the first being this Saturday. "I'm taking one this weekend and then there is one in June. I hope to pass it this weekend so I can just worry about school and training for football. I've just been really studying hard because next to science, math was my hardest subject. I'm not sure what I have to score to qualify, but I need 68 (points) overall for each section. They take the best score from each section and add them up. I have to have 69 or better for English, math, reading and science. Right now, I'm at a 64, but I was at 57 before so I've moved up a lot."
Even though he has temporarily halted his workout preparation for football, Filiaga has stayed away from BYU spring football practices, just five minutes away from his house, on purpose.
"I've wanted to go to some of the spring practices, but there's no point in me going there and maybe not end up qualifying. I'm just staying home and taking care of business, but I will probably go on Thursday and see what's going on because I've been hearing some things."
Despite not being an active participant in the weight room, Filiaga recently entered in a power lifting competition held at Bingham High School.
"I was at school when my uncle Brook called and talked to my dad. My dad contacted me and asked me if I wanted to go to the Utah High School Power Lifting meet. I didn't want to let my uncle down, but I told him I hadn't trained so I wasn't sure if I would be able to put 400 (pounds) up. He just said, "That's OK, I'll pick you up at 2:30," Filiaga said.
How did he do? "I set the record last year at 425 pounds. This year I put up 440 pounds. The last time I trained seriously was last July." Another meet is scheduled. "If I go to the one at Jordan High, I'll try and break that record (440 pounds), but I'm not sure if I'll go to it. We will have to see when the time comes. I just started training last week," he said.
The Filiaga family attends a Tongan ward in Orem. Occasionally, Polynesian players from the football team at attend. "Some of the players have been coming to my ward like Moa Peaua and T.J Sitaki. Moa, a fullback, told me that I better be ready because all they (offense) do is run on the defense," engaging in friendly smack talk with Filiaga knowing full well he is a defensive lineman.
Filiaga was also given some advice by recently returned missionary T.J Sitaki who is now participating in spring practice with the team.
"T.J. said that I better come in ready. They said they hope I am ready to contribute to the team. I know I can come in and help the team out. I'm positive about that," he said.
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