vIQtory: Umass All-American Wide Receiver, Andy Isabella

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On this episode of the vIQtory podcast we are joined by 2018 All-American Wide Receiver and Senior Bowl standout, Andy Isabella.

Andy just wrapped up his Senior year at UMass where he led the nation in receiving. His year ended with 102 catches, 1698 yards and 13 TDs on his way to being named a Biletnikoff finalist among other awards. We caught up with Andy after his season ended and he began training for the Senior Bowl, Combine and ultimately the NFL Draft.

Follow Andy on Instagram @Andy_Isabella23 and on Twitter @AndyIsabella5 to watch him and his story

To learn more football and see our other podcasts, visit viqtorysports.com!

Transcript

Steve McGrath: Welcome back everyone to the vIQtory Podcast. I am Steve McGrath alongside Chris Haddad and today we have a very special guest. As a UMass Amherst alumni, nothing makes me happier than having another UMass guest on here. But, we don’t have just any other UMass guest, we have with us an All-American wide receiver, Biletnikoff Award finalist,  2018 – this past year, his senior year, a 102 catches, 1698 yards, 13 touchdowns – led the nation in yards per game, led the nation in receiving yards, PERIOD. None other than Andy Isabella. Andy thank you so much for coming on with us.

Andy Isabella: No thank you man, its a pleasure 

SM: When you hear all that, do you like – has it sunk in yet? You did that this year from UMass, a school that obviously isn’t notoriously known for those, you know, guys putting up numbers like that. Has it really sunk in?

AI: No I mean it’s slowly sinking in, I mean we were in LA yesterday and I mean I was just being out in LA with being with my agent and all that and him setting everything up it’s just been very blessed to be in the

position I am and very thankful 

SM: That’s awesome man and it and I mean just you were just recently at the award show for the Biletnikoff award that what’s it like going out to like these big, big time award shows where you’re going out there the next thing you know you’re gonna fly back to Amherst to take a final?

AI: It’s been – it’s been a crazy, crazy three weeks especially with finals finishing up but I mean yeah being in Atlanta was awesome we met a bunch of NFL legends and a bunch of just very like well put together people and it’s just it’s all coming – its surreal but very, very blessed yeah 

Chris Haddad: Yeah you’re coming back to the campus now and you know you changed your major to what now – advanced mathematics you were saying?

AI: yep

CH: so what’s that been like going from red carpet to Umass and advanced mathematics? you get a turn off one side of your brain and turn on another? 

AI: you know it’s tough really tough I mean there’s definitely times where I thought maybe I should just stop with the degree and maybe finish it when I’m done with football but uh my mom probably would have killed me if I didn’t finish my degree before I went and played football haha so definitely, it was definitely hard going to class especially knowing I’ll having all this other stuff going on but you know you got to get it done and the teachers were very understanding for the most part so, yeah 

CH: And I’m sure that’s been a whirlwind for your family as well because you know you go to UMass Amherst, advanced mathematics degree, I mean when did the NFL really become in the limelight for you was it just this past year, past two years, you know – when did your family at least be like you might be playing in the league next year?

AI: I always had it planned out, but I didn’t know if it would happen or not.  I had it all planned out but maybe in high school all I had it all planned out and it was a tough journey. I mean for my parents I think it’s just now coming true. I mean my dad, I got lucky enough,  my agent was able to fly us both out to LA and he’s just, he’s loving the experience. I mean it’s good to give him something back, because he’s done a lot for me in my life so you just now just a whirlwind for both of us 

CH: Yeah, once in a lifetime. It’s like every day you get to cherish it and enjoy it you know you and your family – it’s crazy 

SM: so obviously as we talked about you’re an incredible ambassador for UMass going out there and showing the entire country what UMass can do but I wanted to know what exactly is the Andy Isabella story for coming out of high school we know that you were phenomenal track runner of course a football player as well what was your path to actually getting into the UMass program 

AI: uh I wasn’t a phenomenal track athlete until my – I mean I was good at track I was running a little I ran a like high 10.9’s my junior year but I really turned it up after my football season my senior year and lucky enough ran a really good time in the 60 meter. I was actually helping – I ran for a track club club team so it wasn’t really for the high school even though we were it’s through the high school so I wore the Mayfield jersey and I was helping out a friend that was, well his dad was a coach over at a Cleveland Heights and he had a player that was going to UMass he was like he’s like well let me send your film out the UMass guys and maybe they could do something. Right away they liked it, they wanted some speed. Coach Whipple was just getting in there and he needed players and he called me on the phone and it was five days before signing day and I had nothing really else and except for the Air Force and a couple FCS schools, but I wanted to go D1, that was my dream since I was a little kid. So I mean, I thought yeah at that time might have been crazy but I thought the Air Force I wouldn’t be able to make it to NFL because you have to do that serving stuff after I was like well you mess with my way to go so I’m choosing UMass. He called me on the phone, Coach Whip, I was working out, coach Rocky called me and he’s like yeah coach whip is gonna call you and I didn’t really believe him cuz he had said for a couple other coaches and they had never called me but sure enough I was working out and he called me and uh right when he said he’s like yeah we’re gonna offer you a scholarship and he starts talking about right he’s a league a UMass is like good school and he’s and I’m like I’ll take the offer and he just stops he’s like are you serious yeah hey alright alright see you later then on signing day calls me back he’s like he’s like well if you’re really gonna sigh I mean here’s the stuff I ended up signing he actually thought I was gonna sign with Air Force but uh no that was my whole idea was to go to UMass so that’s how I ended up at UMass 

CH: what was the transition like going from from Cleveland to Western Massachusetts where there isn’t really much out there besides UMass

AI: I mean I was I was pretty determined when I got out there we actually left right after the state championship for track and it didn’t really hit me I was ready to go I mean I was ready for the next journey when my mom and dad dropped me off but when mom and dad dropped me off I mean it was a whole different experience. I mean you’re going with college athletes that are that are like 22, 23 years old some of these guys and I mean I thought I was walking into a place where I was gonna get on the field right away but I mean it was full opposite I mean I had to really work to gain coach Whipple’s trust to get on the field

CH: Now how much did your track career play into your football career? you know and I want you to phrase your answer in a way that if a younger kid is looking to run track you know but it’s kind of on the fence about it and you want to sell them on it – what would you tell them?

AI: I’ll tell them it’s a great way to stay in shape for the season and a great way to just build overall speed I mean this I mean track I mean you develop so many skills and then you learn to play on your by yourself I mean I think that’s a good thing it’s it’s more on your own sport so I think I think it’s good for any any athlete any any position did I mean this is just a good great sport I mean yeah yes 

SM: You come to UMass and you actually start as a running back – what was it like for you just going from our running back and you know UMass is probably thinking we have this really good athlete, but we don’t really know how to use him. How do you go from that to having this season that you just had how do you just make those jumps to converting to a wide receiver and then not just being a useful one but the best one in the country?

AI: It was always in my back of my mind to be a receiver, but I was kind of hooked on the running back. I wanted to be a running back so I got to UMass and was a running back and I had a my roommate who was also a running back. We were both freshmen and came in and they had it they like they really liked him even though like I would never talk bad about my reasons we’re good friends but I mean never what really worked – he left/transfered after the first year but they would always give him reps over me and it would always make me mad because he would never really Hewitt even practice half the practices and you would show up to practice and and then get the reps and I would always be the third string and I would be I would be more of like me like I would be like the sixth, seventh on the depth chart so right after camp I knew I wasn’t going to play running back so I was like man I got it let me try some receiver on the scout team so I started killing it on scout team I receiver and I was like and then they’re like well if you want to move receiver let’s move you to receiver and then I kept doing doing my thing I’m receiver and they ended up taking a red shirt off probably wasn’t a smart thinks I didn’t know any of the plays which is a I would say for all freshmen coming into college that’s the one thing they should do is really save the plays because I know single play I actually they started me off on special teams and then um when they put me in on offense in the FIU game I first played on offense was a reverse and I broke it by trip I almost broke it broke it loose for a touchdown by a trip and still got like in 15 yards but then the next play was a hurry up call and a Tajae sharpe now the Titans he was a receiver he’s over here I use a mask when I was a freshman and and he was a hurry up call and I no idea what I was doing at all I’m screaming at Tajae like what I got and he’s like he tells me what I have I don’t really know him so I just ran to open space and of course a quarterback saw me cuz I was in open space so he threw me the ball and I didn’t really see it and hit hit off my shoulder pads and coaches pissed cuz I’m out and I dropped the ball last time I played offense that year and I just played my freshman year

SM: Oh man, talk about a redemption story. You mentioned Coach Whip – I just looked it up 38 years coaching between college and NFL what was it like coach being coached by someone that had that much experience 

AI: Oh you got it, you got to really gain his respect he’s uh you have to really gain in respect I mean I did I did things right way I showed the meetings he actually one of his meetings he said he was use man a lot of guys were showing up late to our meetings I was never really a vocal guy so I never really spoke out of me if I would have redone it I would maybe be more of a vocal guys to get our team teammates going and stuff because I think that was a problem our team there was no there wasn’t that much discipline and stuff but uh but one of you said he was mad at in the meetings he was like he was like well he’s like he started yelling saying the only shows up the meetings he’s my favorite player are Andy Isabella and my other friend Brett he’s like these guys show up 20 minutes early to meetings and and then their first ones on the practice field every day and that was one thing that was big for me I always did things the right way I never never got in trouble and I earned coach whoops respect and uh I mean he’s it he’s a great he knows what he’s doing he’s a great coach awesome coach and he believed in me more than I believed in myself at times and uh I mean it’s really really this season was just really me believing in myself instead of having him always believing in me for those first two years seasons

CH: but those things pay off though right they go hand in hand with each other showing up you know early for meetings staying out late after practice being a practice early and then you’re in the business like the you’re in the position you’re in right now not by accident right you know it’s just hearing that to those things and I’m speaking from a coaching perspective like I’m hearing that I’m like for me anytime

AI: it’s funny a lot of guys a lot of theirs so we have so many good speakers that come in and a bunch of NFL former NFL players and I will speak to our players and will tell us all these these this great advice about how to get to where they it there and what not to do and stuff and then they you you sit in these meetings you think guys would listen to what they have to say but then they just do the complete opposite I mean if you just listen to all these all these great people that are telling you basically what to do I mean then they could have the similar success and I think that was one of my my greatest strengths was when all these very influential people would come to our school I mean I think it’s an NCAA rule or you have to have at least six six to eight speakers and we have we had some really really good speakers we had a guy that was a Navy SEAL guy that was on the was on the mission that the Osama bin Laden mission he had a great speech and he’s telling us all these great things and now he’s like he’s a he was a strength coach now and uh and then I fell for Houston or something but and we had a great another great strength coach Joe Connelly down he was at Arizona State now but I mean they give us all these great advice on how to be successful and I think that was my greatest strength I just really listened to what they had to say and utilize that 

SM: yeah well I mean coachwhip said that you were one of the hardest-working guys he’d ever been around in his coaching career so I think when you you put in the time it’s safe to say that you know you’re gonna get what you put in but I wanted to ask you you know you mask for being a small program over the past few years you got to play Mississippi State you know you went down to university Tennessee but Georgia this year on the biggest stage the biggest game against one of the best schools in the country you go out there fifteen catches 219 yards two touchdowns what was it like for you to be able to go into you know one of the best one of the obviously one of the four best teams going to the playoffs this year you know can you light them up how much does that give you a sense of satisfaction that yes I can do this against the very best in college football when I went into this game and they knew that I was the leading receiver

AI: yeah I mean obviously you you want to win so I mean it wasn’t that great on the scoreboard part but I mean I mean overall we’re just playing every play I mean you can’t really look at the score at the end of day and I was just playing hard like I do every play I mean that’s now it’s basically it and maybe they took a playoff and and we uh and we beat him on those plays so I mean you know it was often experience we could have had a lot more I think in the first half especially I mean there’s a Ross had a little bit more time and could saw me and maybe uh through a couple more passes out there when if he had more time but uh I mean yeah awesome experience and uh yeah I mean just I mean yeah there’s there’s guys like us in might be a little bigger but I mean there’s football players at the end of the day

SM: absolutely 

CH: and Andy we got the senior ball coming up talk to me a little bit about that the expectations going into that and what you have to do to get ready for that 

AI: that’s gonna be a really fun time in my whole family’s gonna come down to the game and a couple other friends and that’s even as you add fuel to the fire and um luckily I my agent is sending me down to Tampa to train with Randy Moss and you’ll Murphy oh cool so and although those guys will get me ready to go and the Senior Bow

SM:  Some good guys to be working with 

CH: what’s after the Senior Bowl? is there anything on the schedule that you know you have plan is just more working out kind of waiting for the draft

AI:  yeah well hope with the combine but pretty soon on and then yeah we’re gonna be most in there but for them the combine

CH: you guys have a pro day at Umass that you’re putting on or are you gonna go – ?

AI: Yeah, they’re doing the pro day there. I’ll probably just most likely if I get the combine invite which hopefully I will I’ll just end up I might not even do anything there but uh I might I might run some rounds for the quarterbacks but I’ll be about it 

CH: okay that’d be cool.  so I gotta ask you’re listed as 5’9” is that correct?

AI:  yeah 

CH: Okay I was gonna give you 5’10” but 5’9” – who do you model your game after I know there’s so many Edelman’s there’s Amendola is the Cole Beasley’s is there anyone in particular that you model your game after present or could be past

AI: Well I like watching Brandon Cooks and Tyreek Hill and those guys. Hopefully I could take my game to their level one day

SM: that’s right baby,  looking at number one it’s not just slots 

CH: yeah guys that can stretch a field on the outside, yeah

SM: Now I wanted to ask you just you know based on your UMass experience of course you watch tape on NFL guys I’m sure you watch some NFL in general is there like a certain type of scheme or a style of coaching that like you hope that on the next level you know you get to fit into a certain type like is there anything in particular they like I really hope that wherever I get drafted they do ‘X’ ?

AI: uh mostly just uh maybe a team that spreads the ball around a lot and uh moves fast and just a team like that it moves moves the ball fast and spreads it spreads it around a lot 

SM: makes sense for a wide receiver. Alright, I need to ask though to this point what is the best advice that you’ve gotten going through whether it’s just getting better as a wide receiver in college or you can just advice for where you are now where you are you’re no longer you know a minute man you’re in this funky period in between where you have to spend all this time getting ready for to play for a team and you don’t even know what the team is yet – what’s been the best piece of advice you’ve gotten 

AI: uh that’s a hard one but um trying to think all the time I had I had some good that someone told me but well but just all the time I had to just keep going just keep going and you never know what’s gonna happen but you keep going and working hard I mean thank God will bless you with what you deserve at the end of the day so that’s all I did was kept going I never gave up and and uh lucky very blessed to be in a position right now 

SM: in this is the last one before we jump into the gauntlet which we’ll end on,  what advice would you give from where you’re sitting now to 16 17 year old football player that wants to make it to the NFL one day?

AI: uh I would say just never give up I mean I had we had I coaches I would come into our high school and laugh when they said they looked at me and said this kid’s gonna play college football I had friends laugh in my face when I said I wanted to play Division one I mean but at the end of the day I mean I just kept working and uh was able to prove that now there’s anything to prove people wrong but it’s what I wanted to do so if you want to do something bad enough but all I think there’s a way to always always get get to what you want if you work hard enough and just believing keep going 

SM: awesome great yeah alright so we have this last bit here called the gauntlet I got a couple quick questions for you you have to give me your gut first answer Andy what’s most important having the number one offense of the number one defense 

IA: well nothing against our defense but consider how our defense played this year out let’s say the number one defense 

SM: Defense wins championships, no problem. Best hangout spot in Amherst?

IA: I really didn’t do that much hanging out. The most hanging out I did was around the football stadium

SM: Well what about the best place to eat in Amherst?

IA: The wings. you can’t beat the hanger and the wings

SM:  thank you, now you’re speaking my language. Now what is yourfavorite football memory to date

football best football memory to date?

IA: Probably my first catch in the Florida game it was a there’s a stutter go on the outside and that was the right that was the first moment I knew I could play college football and after I was lining up on the out after that catch I was lining up like I was almost invincible and I was amazing feeling and it and I’ve had that feeling a couple times but then that Florida game that was a amazing feeling after that first catch now my sophomore year 

SM: yeah what’s the first thing you’re going to buy what you have a signing bonus 

AI: I don’t know about it at all I haven’t thought I’ll probably need a new car cuz I’m driving a Volkswagen so maybe a little wagon with a white Volkswagen beetle but I probably buy my mom and dad something, probably pay off their house because it’s they’re almost done pay off for house I bought a paint off the mom’s house to get something back to them for everything they’ve given me

SM: that’s awesome man and you know what driving a car like that it’s only gonna give you good memories of woman backup for what you have to put up with back in the day if you could run one route what is your favorite route of the tree

AI: We call it a Puma and go so it’s like an outside stutter and now that was actually the catcher in Florida and I mean it worked every single time and I probably caught like 15 balls on it and like teams could never figure it out it was crazy you think they’ll figure it out but coach kept lining up lining stuff in different formations so I could run it and work I mean it worked there almost every single time unless they just ran bailed out as they can

CH: What’s that now is that like eight yards give a little hitch to the outside?

IA: Yeah it supposed to be like twelve yards hitch outside and then go

SM: In your opinion what is most important is it the players on the roster or is it the scheme 

IA: Players on the roster players on the roster you can’t win with guys that aren’t bought into the program and guys that don’t care I mean you got to have guys I care and you guys and maybe at UMass we didn’t come together as a team I don’t think we ever did that in our four years there and hopefully it will change I mean UMass is a great great program and I mean there are great guys in the program but guys got a really buy into the program if they want a win we can’t have just one or two guys that they want to win I mean it’s got to be everyone so yeah

SM: well I mean coach whip did so much to get the program you know d1 ready so it seems like they’re primed to take the next step in hopefully that’s something that they’re able to do in the next few years

AI: I mean since I’ve been there from a freshman to senior I mean there’s been so many changes that people people don’t credit coach Whipple for doing but you mean he did if he did so much for the program that people don’t see behind the scenes and like I said I mean this this new guy I don’t really know him but I mean coach will put him in a good spot to take over for sure

SM: Awesome well Andy thank you so much for coming on with us for all of our listeners you can find andy on instagram at andy_isabella23 wish you the best of luck hopefully it’s all good things we’ll be paying attention for the Senior Bowl and obviously we’ll be paying attention for the draft itself and hopefully the combine too

AI: Awesome, thank you

CH: Best of luck Andy

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