BOZEMAN — Montana State running back Isaiah Ifanse spent the 2019 football season battling an injury, he used 2020 to get healthy, and now the junior is set to lead a young position group into the 2021 season.
“After the injury, I just kind of realized that football can end at any point, so I don’t want to take anything for granted," Ifanse said about making the most of the upcoming 2021 season. "I just want to give it my all, just so if something was to happen, I knew I gave it everything I had.”
Running backs coach Jimmy Beal has tasked Ifanse with stepping up as leader.
“Him being kind of the guy that we look to for anything, I’m challenging him to be the guy that, 'Hey, this how we do things in the room,' because we are so young -- being able to really get those guys going and really show them the way to become on his level," Beal said.
Beal was hired in early 2020 and has had time to see Ifanse grow on and off the field. He has become close with the Ifanse and watched him grow over the past year, trusting him to watch his child and also seeing him have a job while juggling school and football.
“Really seeing him starting to really grow up in that way -- really understand there’s more than just football." Beal said.
The running backs coach has worked with all the backs on expanding their games to be able to run, catch and block. Being a former MSU running back himself, Beal wants to help Ifanse grow his legacy at Montana State. Ifanse has rushed for 1,838 yards in his short time as a Bobcat, 13th-most in MSU history.
“Isaiah has done a great job of kind of really figuring out what his next step is," said Beal. "I think he wants to be that guy, he wants to be a pro, he wants to be the person everyone sees, he wants to be remembered here. We talk about what is your legacy going to be here at Montana State, you know what I mean? I think that’s something great to have as far a community, beating the Griz and all that fun stuff, but we all talk about what is your legacy going to be in this room.”
With the year off, Ifanse was able to use his time to not only get healthy, but to get to know his team and himself.
“It’s kind of taking a step back from football and just getting to know the team and also just getting to know myself really, because in season and whatnot you’re always busy and held up with football and everything going on," he said. "But this past year we didn’t really have the opportunity, so it was a good step back and just seeing everything.”
As for his position group, the running backs might be young, but it's a deep group.
“There’s a lot of guys in the room that could potentially be playing somewhere else or starting somewhere else," Ifanse said. "I feel like if someone was to go down or anything the next guy up would be just as good at filling the role.”