Filiaga Returns with Honor

Iron man Isley Filiaga returned home from his LDS mission last Friday. The Utah high school weightlifting record holder is anxious to get himself back in school and back in the weight room to prepare himself for the gridiron come spring. spoke with Filiaga about his plans for the near future.

It was over two years ago when Timpanogos High School defensive tackle Isley Filiaga put up a state record of 495 pounds on the bench press. After committing to BYU following a successful senior season as Utah's top defensive tackle prospect in 2004, Filiaga is happy to be back with his family.

"It's good to be home," said Filiaga. "My mission was really good. It was a life changing experience for me. A lot of good things happened for me and I learned a lot. I learned a lot of things about myself; things that I never thought I would learn spiritually. I was able to gain my own personal testimony of the gospel. I did learn Tongan and Samoan while on my mission. The first people I baptized were straight from Samoa."

Filiaga returned home the day after BYU treated the Ducks of Oregon to a good old fashion whooping in front of a national audience.

"I came home this past Friday night," Filiaga said. "I missed the BYU game but I did hear about it."

Filiaga had success as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaching the Tonga and Samoan people in San Francisco, California and the surrounding area. The BYU fans in his mission informed him that his former Cougar teammates were also enjoying success of their own on the gridiron back in Provo.

"There was one time during sacrament meeting and some guy walked up to me and said, ‘Hey Elder how's it going?'" recounted Filiaga. "I just said good and introduced myself to him as Elder Filiaga. He then said, ‘Is your first name Isley?' I said yeah and then he asked me if I was from Orem and if my dad was Tui and if I played for BYU. I said yeah, and it was kind of scary because I was like, ‘Who are you?' He said he was one of BYU's biggest fans and that he followed them on everything. He said he knew that I wasn't supposed to be following BYU but he told me they were doing really good and that I was would be going back to a good team."

Preliminary reports from immediate and close family members are that Isley came back from his mission a little taller and a little bigger as well. He confirmed those reports himself.

"He looks good," said father Tui. "He looks like he's been training on his mission but he hasn't. He looks like he's grown a little too while on his mission. We're going to get the soreness out of the way before he gets down there with Coach Omer."

"I'm about 6-2 now," said Filiaga. "The last time I checked, I was about 335. In fact I'm getting ready to go to the gym in a couple of minutes."

Under the tutelage of his father, Filiaga plans to get himself ready for football before spring camp. He intends on doing winter semester to get back on track academically.

"I plan on going to school this next winter semester, but I haven't been able to talk to the coaches, so I'm not sure what's going on with my classes right now," said Filiaga. "My dad and I are just waiting to go talk to coach Hamblin and talk to him to make sure he has all of my classes ready. I think school starts on the 8th, so we're planning on doing this some time this week."

Isley may not be fully aware of the situation in regards to getting himself registered for winter classes, but his father is. While Elder Filiaga was out in the mission field his father took the time to get things in order for his return.

"He's registered for like fourteen-and-a-half credits," said Isley's father Tui. "During the semester I've been going down and talking with Coach Hamblin to find out what classes Isley needs to take and to see if he can register for school before he comes home, so every chance I get when I'm not doing anything I go down and visit with Coach Hamblin at school. He's been really good about it and has really helped me and he's one of those guys that I can tell he really cares for me and my son. I gave him a hug before Christmas and told him thanks for everything he's done for me and my son at BYU."

Taking care of his son's interests, Tui Filiaga also went to Coach Mendenhall to be sure his son was wanted back at BYU upon completing his mission. Coach Mendenhall made it clear to the Filiaga family Isley was very wanted at BYU.

"I went up to Coach Mendenhall and asked him if he wanted Isley back or not," said Tui Filiaga. "Coach Mendenhall said they really want Isley, but he's not going to hold anything against Isley if he decided to go somewhere else. I told him that I would get permission from his mission president to speak with Isley. I called his mission president and asked for permission to talk to Isley because I really wanted to see where his heart was, so when I finally talked with him, he told me, ‘Dad, tell Coach Mendenhall that I really want to come back to BYU and for him to hold a spot for me, number 93.' I went back and told Mendenhall that, and he was excited."

Filiaga arrived home a few weeks early so he could take classes in the winter semester, however, BYU has not anticipated him starting classes until the summer or fall. As a result, the Filiaga family will pay for his schooling until the scholarship becomes available.

"I don't think they have a scholarship for him right now," said Tui Filiaga. "That's what they told me because they weren't expecting him to come home early, so we're going to pay for his schooling for now and I guess they'll award him the scholarship in the spring or fall. I'm not sure—maybe in the summer."

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