Football: Isaac Sopoaga and the Missing Slippers

Normally, Isaac Sopoaga can overlook a few indiscretions and forgive. But take away his slippers, and you do not want to be the guilty party.

Isaac Sopoaga

and the Case

of the Missing Slippers

By Paul Honda

RSN Writer

Friday, Sept. 13, 2002


HONOLULU—Pity the fool who would attempt to swipe anything from an otherwise laid-back defensive lineman.


For some reason, however, Isaac Sopoaga's favorite pair of slippers are missing. Under the sultry skies of the University of Hawaii football quarry, who could imagine that such a dastardly crime of passion could be committed? What kind of a heartless individual steals the slippers of a hard-working, sore-footed 300-plus-pound man?


The man has traveled 7,385 miles, from Pago Pago to Honolulu to Santa Clarita, Calif., and back Hawaii, and they just can't leave his footwear alone.


The case of the missing sandals—they are no mere flip-flops or kamabokos—was one worthy of study and analysis, so RSN took the mission to heart. Long after the morning session, the Quarry practice field is empty but for a few lingering cameramen, reports and Warriors. We begin with a simple Q & A—not interrogation, for that will be saved for the perpetrators—on the slope near the storage facility.


RSN: So, somebody swiped your slippers?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yehhhp.


RSN: How much were—is that it right there?


Isaac Sopoaga: No.


RSN: On the ground?


Isaac Sopoaga: No.


RSN: No? How much were your slippers?


Isaac Sopoaga: Twenty bucks.


RSN: Twenty bucks?!


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah.


RSN: I'd be mad, too! What color were they?


Isaac Sopoaga: Black.


RSN: What if you see somebody else walking around with them? Can you recognize ‘em?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.


RSN: My theory is this—one of the trainer saw the slippers, and he figured they might get stolen, so he put it in the truck and they took it away. (Editor's note: The ‘truck' is actually a go-cart). I don't think anybody in their right mind would steal the slippers of a man—what size are your feet?


Isaac Sopoaga: Fourteen.


RSN: Nobody wants to steal the slippers of a man with size 14 feet, unless they wear size 14, too. So, you're probably going to see a lineman wearing it, and he'll say, "Wow, check out these slippers I scored today! Somebody just left them?"


Isaac Sopoaga: They better not have my slippers.



RSN: Let's start with some basic stuff. How much do you weigh right now? (Ed's note: This interview was conducted in mid-August.)


Isaac Sopoaga: I weigh about 315.


RSN: The roster is accurate, then?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah.


RSN: And what's your height?


Isaac Sopoaga: I'm about 6-2, 6-3.


RSN: Six-two, yeah? Six-two-and-a-half?


Isaac Sopoaga: Six-two-and-a-half?


RSN: Bench press—you guys rep with 225? How much can you rep with max?


Isaac Sopoaga: I can press, like, 30. I'm not really into bench because I have a bad wrist.


RSN: Ohh.


Isaac Sopoaga: I clean and I squat.


RSN: What's your clean?


Isaac Sopoaga: Oh, 330, 345.


RSN: That's max?


Isaac Sopoaga: Max.


RSN: And what else do you do?


Isaac Sopoaga: Squat is like 550.


RSN: Hoo! So, what happened to your wrist?


Isaac Sopoaga: It's a weird injury. I don't know if you guys do it here in Hawaii. You go find a coconut tree; everybody pitches in 20 dollars. The first one to get to the top and come down with a coconut gets that money. That day I went up the tree, it was kind of raining. The whole tree was wet and slippery, so I fell down from about 20, 25 feet up.


RSN: Ho, man!


Isaac Sopoaga: I broke my wrist, and the knife was on my leg.



RSN: When was that?


Isaac Sopoaga: Sixth grade.


RSN: Sixth grade?


Isaac Sopoaga: The summer going to seventh grade.


RSN: So the wrist has been sore for a long time.


Isaac Sopoaga: Long time.


RSN: Was your mom mad at you or was she more worried?


Isaac Sopoaga: She was worried.


RSN: Hey, you could've died.


Isaac Sopoaga: It was fast money. Sixty bucks in three minutes.


RSN: You still climb trees?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah.


RSN: You still climb trees?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah.


RSN: For money or for fun?


Isaac Sopoaga: Oh, it's just for family stuff, to get the coconut milk.


RSN: A few years from now, there's a good chance you could buy a lot of coconuts and not have to climb the trees. Do you have a lot of family here or mostly in Samoa?


Isaac Sopoaga: I have a couple of relatives in Hawaii. Everybody else is back home.


RSN: How hard was it to sit through all of last year after you arrived from College of the Canyons?


Isaac Sopoaga: It was hard. It was hard going to school and stuff, making the grades. I never thought about giving up. I'm so happy and so proud that I made the team, and everyone I play with are like brothers and friends.


RSN: It's kind of good that you don't go on the Internet, you know. Everyone's talked about your 31 sacks (at College of the Canyons), and then you couldn't play right away at UH. People were all pumped up and then they had to wait one year to see you play. Tell me about the season you had 31 sacks.


Isaac Sopoaga: It was a passing and running league.


RSN: Was it more pure strength or more speed and technique for you?


Isaac Sopoaga: My first technique is just go strong to the guy and make the second effort. Bull rushing.


RSN: What's the biggest adjustment for you to Division I? Is there a big difference from junior college?


Isaac Sopoaga: No, they're both about the same. My freshman and sophomore years in junior college, there were, like, a few guys from D1 that I face who didn't make the grade and played at the junior college level, so basically it's about the same.


RSN: Having teammates on the defensive line with experience helps, too.


Isaac Sopoaga: They helped me a lot, especially at the beginning, telling me where to go, what to do.


RSN: Do you guys talk on the field sometimes when the quarterback's doing his count?


Isaac Sopoaga: Yeah.


RSN: In English or Samoan?


Isaac Sopoaga: Oh, English. (laughs)


RSN: Not everyone speaks Samoan. Kahuku used to a lot of their audibles in Samoan.


The interview concludes with a few extra notes. Technically, in Samoan, his name is spelled Isaak. His last name, as most fans know, is pronounced So-po-an-ga.


Isaac also shared that three of his uncles are ministers in Samoa. Faith is a key part of his life whether he's in California or Hawaii, which explains how he managed to stay single—and focused on school and football—during his JC years.


Moments after the interview, we spot a pair of slippers about 20 feet away. Eureka! They'd been out of sight on the other side of the go-cart.



Isaac and his slippers are one once again. Gotta love these happy endings. 



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