Former Dolphins offensive lineman who fought depression finds purpose in law enforcement

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Isaac Asiata despised bedtime.

The reason the former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman dreaded closing his eyes and falling asleep was because when morning came it meant his nightmare was starting all over again.

Football was no longer fun for the former Utah standout guard the Dolphins traded up to select in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL draft, and he realized going to work fueled his depression.

His depression triggered his overeating, which contributed to him blowing up to 355 pounds — and the vicious cycle kept repeating itself.

Depression, overeating, narcolepsy — wash, rinse, repeat.

Asiata, whose wife Angel had a miscarriage the week after he left her to participate in Miami’s Organized Team Activities last summer, knew he was unhappy.

While he loved his teammates, the camaraderie and the money, he knew his passion for the sport was gone for years.

“I’d be sitting in the parking lot paralyzed because I didn’t want to go to work,” Asiata admitted this week while discussing his two-year career.

When he told the Dolphins he needed to be with his wife and wanted to return to Utah, Brian Flores, his new coach at the time, encouraged him to go, and the Dolphins offered to provide the support he needed.

The Dolphins put Asiata on injured reserve before ultimately releasing him in June.

Asiata tried to continue playing with the Buffalo Bills, who signed him before training camp opened in July because he feared being haunted by the “what if” thoughts that lingered.

“If you give up this way, quit because you got fat, you’ll never forgive yourself,” said Asiata, explaining his thought process during the week he spent with the Bills in training camp before calling it a career. He retired from professional football in July.

In hindsight, Asiata admits his passion for the game had disappeared during his senior year at Utah, but he kept playing because he felt obligated to push forward and loved being part of a team.

After retirement, the 27-year-old began the journey of discovering what was next, and that’s when a friend he met biking introduced him to other police officers.

Asiata grew to admire those officers so much that when they encouraged him to join the police academy it made sense, and he enrolled.

Last week, Asiata concluded his five-month program, graduated from the Police Officer Standard and Training (POST) program and was assigned to the Provo police department in Utah.

“We are fortunate to have officer Asiata join our team,” Sgt. Nisha King said on behalf of the Provo police department.

Asiata finds himself being a rookie all over again — and is enjoying every minute of it.

“I found that football wasn’t something I wanted,” he said. “I wanted a simpler life where I love what I do every day,” said Asiata, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his collegiate career. “Helping others, serving others and being a part of a team again….

“I always felt in this life I was supposed to help people,” he said. “I’m not in the NFL anymore, but what better way to help others.”

While there were certain challenges about the training program, particularly the gun training involved, Asiata claims his football background made the academy easier because it paled in comparison to the mental and physical rigors of an NFL training camp.

That’s why Asiata strongly encourages other athletes — especially those who find themselves lost without their sport, or those missing a team atmosphere — to consider a career in law enforcement.

“You have to have that work ethic, dedication and competitive attitude,” Asiata said about being a police officer. “There is constant adversity and obstacles in law enforcement, but we’re used to that in sports. The mindset you develop as an athlete, not a lot of people have that.”

Asiata is sleeping better at nights these days.

Not only does he have a profession that’s fulfilling, but Angel is pregnant with their second child, a son who will join Norah, their two year old, in June as a member of the Asiata clan.

“I’m excited,” Asiata said. “It’s all new, but feels right.”


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