Isaiah Spiller, along with his father Fred, former Texas A&M tight end and class of 2004, lay out a list of goals for Isaiah to attempt to accomplish every season.
Running back Isaiah Spiller has already accomplished many of those goals as an underclassman, one of them being achieving over 1,000 rushing yards in his sophomore season alone. However, Isaiah has entered his junior year with a few new accolades in mind. Being a candidate for the most prestigious award in collegiate football, the Heisman Trophy, is at the top of that list.
“I’m gonna tell you this, I told you we make goals every year; that is one of his goals this year,” Fred said. “To be that type of player, that Heisman candidate, the player to put his team on his back and make the plays necessary to take A&M to that national championship.”
During the 2020 football season and the 2021 Orange Bowl, Isaiah notched a 1,036 rushing yard season in addition to scoring nine of the 21 rushing touchdowns in the 2020 campaign.
A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said Isaiah is an amazing running back, but added fans should not discredit his 20 catches for 193 receiving yards from the 2020 season.
“I mean, he is huge. He's the guy that everyone knows is going to get it and we're going to give it to him and he carries it. He's a big part of what we do and also catching the ball out of the backfield,” Fisher said.
However, hitting the 1,000 rushing yard mark was not an easy accomplishment. Going into the Orange Bowl, Isaiah only needed 14 yards to meet this mark, but during practice the week of the bowl game, Isaiah injured his foot.
“Coming into [the Orange Bowl], he was already hurt,” Fred said. “I didn’t even think he was going to play. But he kept telling me he was going to play because he wanted to hit that 1,000 yards. When we got to Miami and I saw his foot, I was like, ‘Man, you don’t need to play on a swollen foot,’ but he said, ‘Dad, I’m playing.’ So they wrapped it up and he went out there and got his 1,000 yards.”
While his foot wasn’t broken in the 2021 Orange Bowl, Isaiah did play with a fractured toe. In addition, the running back still managed to garner 50 rushing yards and was responsible for two touchdowns, surpassing his 1,000 yard mark.
Isaiah not only attributes his own perseverance and talent to hitting the benchmark, but also to his teammates, past and present.
“I’m very grateful to my [offensive] line,” he said. “They have been amazing this year. In fact, they’re going to be amazing this year. I’m grateful for those guys. Kellen [Mond], Ainias [Smith] and Chase [Lane] and all of them were blocking for me so [reaching 1,000 rushing yards] was a team effort. I’m ready to do it again this year.”
But Isaiah’s talent is something that the Spiller family has been refining for decades.
The Spring native started playing football at a very young age, demonstrating immense talent when he was just in youth football.
“In little league, he had a game where he had six touchdowns in the first half,” Fred said. “Everybody had been telling me he was going to be a special player, but when I saw that, I was like, ‘Okay, this kid has a chance to be something special.’”
As a result of his success leading into the 2021 season, Isaiah has been given three preseason accolades: he was named to the Doak Walker Award preseason candidate list for the second consecutive season and was also named to the 85th Maxwell Award Preseason Watch List.
Lastly, Isaiah was one of the three Aggies named to the All-SEC Preseason Offensive team and was one of the only two running backs chosen.
However, Isaiah said this recognition is somewhat new to him, as his talent often went unnoticed as his career progressed.
In fact, Isaiah said he was not always a starter.
“I really faced adversity in high school,” Isaiah said. “When I was a sophomore, I was on varsity, and I wasn’t used to sitting on the bench. I had to adjust — that was a [big] adversary [for me]. I wanted to quit. It really molded me into the player I am today.”
Fred added that Isaiah’s challenges in high school taught him to take advantage of his opportunities.
“[Isaiah is great at] making the most of his opportunities,” Fred said. “In football, you’re going to face adversity. And I think him facing that adversity early on helped him to deal with it and really made him a stronger player.”
Through the trials and tribulations of becoming one of the NCAA’s most talented running backs, the father and son bond has strengthened, Isaiah said.
“All throughout my life, [my dad] has taught me to work and to believe in myself when nobody else is,” Isaiah said. “Everybody doubted me. He really instilled a lot into me that a lot of people are seeing in me today. I’m really grateful for him, I love him as my dad; he’s like my role model, my mentor, he taught me how to run, he taught me how to catch, he taught me how to read holes.”
Fred himself played tight end prior to ending his career early due to a leg injury.
Isaiah has the opportunity to finish what his dad began with his own collegiate football career — continuing into a professional one.Fred said his son choosing to attend his alma mater on his own was just another piece of the puzzle.
“I was elated [when Isaiah chose to attend A&M],” Fred said. “I really let it be his choice. I gave him my insight and input on what I thought… It was the right decision.”
Fred is not the only one who praises Isaiah on his skill. Fisher also recognizes the tremendous talent of the starting running back.
“Spiller is just a worker,” Fisher said. “He’s been a 1,000 yard back. One of the best [running] backs in all of the SEC. He [was] only a sophomore, I mean just a tremendous future [lined up for him] and [he’s] just a tremendous player. He’s a part of our backbone.”
Isaiah has already established himself as the Aggies’ go-to running back on the field, having 188 carries during the 2020 campaign. Midway through the 2021 season, Spiller has rushed for 491 yards and three touchdowns on 85 carries.
Isaiah is going into the 2021 season with something to prove. As of presstime, none of the preseason collegiate football magazines list the running back as a Heisman candidate. Athlon Sports College Football Preview lists Isaiah as a third team All-American running back and also ranks the Aggies’ running back unit as third in the country.
“[Getting a Heisman nomination] would be crazy,” Isaiah said. “[That would be] a crazy moment in my life. Just to watch all of those guys do that, I got a lot of work to do, but that would be a crazy moment.”
For Isaiah, the sky's the limit, whether the world knows it or not.