When Gary Andersen was named the head coach of the Utah State football program, it wasn’t just him and his family who made the move to Logan.
Linebacker Forrest Dabb (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham HS) and safety Isaiah Jones (Macon, Ga./Mount De Sales Academy) are two Aggie seniors who started their college careers elsewhere, but upon the hiring of Andersen, both decided to transfer to Utah State and begin again as Aggies.
Jones started college at Colorado Mesa University as a cornerback on scholarship. Once he heard Andersen would be taking over the USU program, he was also drawn to it.
“He seemed like a player’s coach,” Jones said. “From listening to what he had to say you could tell he was a big-time coach.”
Jones’ father played football at Utah State from 1981-84 and ended up on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. His mother is also an alumna of USU, so being an Aggie had always been a possibility for Jones. With their example and the addition of Andersen, it was an easy decision for Jones to transfer.
“I never really looked at it as trying to be just like my father. I’ve always looked up to him though,” Jones said. “Just to get an opportunity to come here, get a degree and play football is what I wanted to do.”
On the other hand, Dabb has been with Andersen from day one. As a freshman, Dabb was a redshirt at the University of Utah where Andersen had served as defensive coordinator. With Andersen’s promotion, Dabb didn’t hesitate to follow him.
“I just felt like I’d have a better chance of playing up here,” Dabb said.
And that’s exactly what happened.
By the second game of the 2009 season, Dabb had found a place for himself on the travel squad, logging eight appearances on special teams.
Transferring schools, although often worth it, is hard work for a student-athlete.
“The biggest thing was not knowing anything or anyone. I was definitely shell-shocked and didn’t know what was going on,” Dabb said. “At first, it was kind of depressing. But once I got to know people, it was kind of a cool feeling. I was building relationships from nothing. It made things really strong.”
Jones said one of the hardest parts of being a transfer player is the required year of sitting on the sidelines.
“It’s tough because you get pushed to the bottom of the depth chart and bounced around a little bit,” Jones said. “But the good thing is you learn a lot about yourself, how to keep a cool head and good attitude, have good character and play as hard as you can.”
In their time at Utah State, Dabb and Jones have made an impression on the coaching staff, both for their skill on the field and their dependability.
“Forrest is a true competitor. He is beloved by all of his teammates. He has their respect because of how hard he works and how he studies the game,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “We’re counting on him on special teams, and he knows both linebacker spots. He’s a very determined and a very trusted guy.”
Although Jones hasn’t racked up a large list of statistics, he shows up and gives his best effort.
“Isaiah is consistent. He gives great effort every single day and is very coachable. You tell him one thing one time, and he gets it,” Aranda said. “He’s a good mentor to some of the younger players.”
Despite not seeing a lot of action on the field, Jones said he is always ready to go, just in case.
“Wherever they call me to play, I try to do it the best I can. I contribute where I can,” Jones said. “Being a walk-on, you don’t get some of the luxuries of knowing where you’re going to be. You just go where they need you and be ready to compete.”
He plans to use that same mentality going into his final season.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to be a part of a winning season and have a great time with the guys before I have to head out,” he said.
Dabb said the biggest thing he has learned as a Division I athlete is persistence. “We used to have a quote up in the locker room that said ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,’ and that is key,” Dabb said. “If you’re prepping for something, when it actually comes up, you can be successful. Being ready will make you successful in the long run.”
Jones said the biggest draw to the game for him isn’t the game itself, but the struggle. “You train and you practice for something to go a certain way, but it doesn’t always happen like that. Being able to keep a great attitude, and your effort are two of the things you can control,” Jones said. “Focusing on what you want and even if it doesn’t happen, still giving the effort and the attitude that you want to have no matter what.”
Coming off the most successful season in recent Utah State football history, Dabb, Jones and the rest of the team are looking forward to continuing the new legacy.
“No matter what happens, keep a good attitude. Always give as much effort as you can,” Jones said. “Always be ready for something to change. Trust in God, pray and don’t stop.”
As they head into their last stint as Aggies, Dabb and Jones are ready to go. They are taking the lessons they’ve learned and the experiences they’ve had to make it a great season.
Megan Allen, Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.