BILLINGS — Isaiah Ifanse's career path is leading him away from Montana State.
Ifanse, perhaps the greatest running back in MSU history, said Thursday that he has entered the NCAA transfer portal. Ifanse made the announcement via social media, writing, "I have decided to enter my name in the transfer portal for my last year of eligibility."
Ifanse, a Bellevue, Wash., product, is the Bobcats' all-time rushing leader with 3,742 yards. He missed the entire 2022 regular season recovering from knee surgery but returned for the playoffs, helping MSU reach the FCS semifinals with 281 yards and two touchdowns in three games, including a 162-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 55-7 quarterfinal victory over William & Mary.
Because Ifanse played in just three games this past season, he is afforded another year of eligibility per NCAA rules. By Thursday night, Ifanse tweeted that he had already received an offer from San Jose State.
At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, Ifanse showcased a unique blend of speed and power throughout his time in Bozeman. In 40 games with the Bobcats, Ifanse had 1,025 yards in 2018, 813 in 2019, and a single-season school record 1,623 in 2021, a year in which MSU advanced to the national championship game for the first time since 1984. He has 25 career rushing touchdowns.
"I'd like to thank Coach (Brent) Vigen for pushing me to become a better player and person everyday," Ifanse wrote. "I'd also like to thank Coach (Jeff) Choate's staff for being the first to take a chance on me and giving me an opportunity to play in Bozeman."
Ifanse thanked his teammates, writing, "I love you guys and some of the adversity we endured throughout my 5 years, I'll forever be grateful. The lifelong relationships that have been built will be cherished, and the way you treated me like family since day 1 will never be forgotten."
Ifanse also stated his appreciation for Bozeman and Montana State fans.
|MSU career rushing leaders
|Isaiah Ifanse, 2018-22
|Ryan Johnson, 1999-02
|Cody Kirk, 2010-13
|Steve Kracher, 1972-75
|Don Hass, 1965-67
Recruited by former MSU coach Jeff Choate and his staff, Ifanse signed with Montana State out of Bellevue High School in the Seattle area, where he rushed for 2,468 yards and 44 touchdowns and was named Washington's Gatorade football player of the year in 2017.
Ifanse played right away in his initial year at MSU and became the first freshman in Bobcat history to rush for 1,000 yards. Ifanse broke the 100-yard barrier in just his third game, a 47-24 victory over Wagner on Sept. 15, 2018, which was the first glimpse of what would be a record-shattering career. He was named a freshman All-American and honorable mention All-Big Sky.
The following year in 2019, Ifanse missed four games due to injuries but remained a force in an 11-win season that saw the Bobcats advance to the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs. His 196-yard performance in the playoffs that year against Austin Peay set a postseason school record.
Montana State did not play football in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Ifanse came back in 2021 with his best season in Vigen's first year as coach: a school-record 1,623 yards with 10 touchdowns as the Bobcats went all the way to the national title game where they fell 38-10 to North Dakota State. Ifanse was named first-team All-Big Sky and a second-team All-American.
After sitting out the 2022 regular season, Ifanse returned for the playoffs and rushed for 91 yards in a 33-25 second-round win over Weber State, 162 yards and two TDs in the quarterfinal victory over William & Mary and 28 yards in MSU's 39-18 semifinal defeat at South Dakota State.
Ifanse broke the school rushing mark against William & Mary, surpassing the previous record of 3,646 yards held by MSU hall of famer Ryan Johnson (1999-02).
Ifanse was perhaps at his best when the lights were brightest in the FCS playoffs. In 11 postseason games, Ifanse carried the ball 193 times for 1,113 yards, both school playoff records.
Some of Ifanse's teammates took to Twitter to comment on the running back's impending departure.
"It was a pleasure 22!! Go be great," wrote receiver Willie Patterson.
"Pleasure playing with you Zay," offered center Justus Perkins.
Ifanse had 17 100-yard games in his career, which ties Johnson for the school record. Ifanse had eight 100-yard games in 2021, one back of the record of nine set by Troy Andersen in 2018. Ifanse's 25 career rushing touchdowns are sixth-most at MSU.
Ifanse was also stellar in games against archrival Montana. In three outings versus the Grizzlies, Ifanse carried the ball 64 times for 410 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bobcats went 43-14 overall and 26-6 in Big Sky Conference games during Ifanse's time with the program.
In a sit-down interview with MTN Sports' Ashley Washburn in the fall, Ifanse said he came to Montana State because of "the brotherhood right off the bat. I felt like all the guys were close. I really, really liked that."
Now Ifanse, part of one of the best stretches of team success in MSU history, will look for a new place to call home.
This story will be updated