After retiring from the National Football League last year, 27-year-old former Buffalo Bills football guard Isaac Asiata is turning in his pads and helmet for a badge and gun.
Asiata was born on December 29, 1992 in San Francisco, California. His mother moved Asiata and his older brother to Utah in an effort to protect her sons from gang activity.
“It was a bad part of San Francisco, and she wanted better for us,” he recalled. “She always has.”
Utah had a lot to offer the single mother, and the Asiata family moved at least a dozen times within the state before landing in Spanish Fork, where Asiata attended high school. By the time he graduated, Asiata was the second oldest of six children.
After high school, Asiata attended the University of Utah, pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Sociology while participating in the school’s football team as a student athlete.
Asiata graduated from the University of Utah in 2016, becoming the second University of Utah athlete with ties to Utah County to be selected in the late rounds of the 2017 National Football League Draft. The Miami Dolphins chose Asiata in the fifth round.
He remained with the Dolphins until 2019, when he was placed on waived-injured, transitioned to injured reserve, and then was ultimately released. Asiata then signed with the Buffalo Bills, practicing with the team through the first week of camp before announcing his retirement.
With an average retirement age of 35 years old, it’s almost unheard of to hear of players retiring from the NFL at 26 years old, but Asiata had different plans.
“I just wanted to be happy,” he said.
While playing for the Spanish Fork football team in his senior year of high school, Asiata said he was already beginning to feel burnt out.
It wasn’t at the fault of his teammates or his coaches. He loved everything about it, he said, but he just wasn’t finding as much enjoyment out of the sport as he had in the past.
“When I got drafted into the NFL, it was always a dream of mine, and I was so grateful and happy and saw it as an accomplishment,” Asiata said. “When I got there, I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t getting that self-fulfillment I was looking for.”
Football had become a job, Asiata said, and he didn’t feel like he could quit because of the stability it offered him and his family. Three years after making his NFL debut, he decided he had to leave football behind in search of something that set his soul on fire.
The father of two knew that whatever was next for him was going to be a challenge, but he said he was willing to take any challenge on if it meant coming home feeling proud of the work he had done and waking up each morning excited to take on another day.
Initially, while searching for a new career path, Asiata was looking to sustain the lifestyle to which he and his family had become accustomed, delving into the possibility of working in sales or business and utilizing his ability to connect with people.
Not long into the job search, Asiata was offered a position at a software company.
“The money was great, everything looked great about it, but my wife said that she knew I would be stuck in an office all day, and I wouldn’t love what I did,” he said. “I had just left a job where I had a great income, but I wasn’t happy there. She told me to go find what made me happy.”
When Asiata began to ask himself what made him happy, he said one of the first things that came to mind was service to others. He wanted to do something where he could benefit the lives of others.
That’s what Asiata began looking into law enforcement.
In the fall of 2019, Asiata was doing ride alongs with Utah County law enforcement agencies, almost immediately falling head over heels for the Provo City Police Department.
“I love the program, I love the city, the employees,” he said. “The department was such a professional department. From the top to the bottom, it kind of runs like a football team, and Chief Ferguson talks the talk and walks the walk. He is an officer’s officer.”
Asiata was so keen on working for Provo City Chief of Police Rich Ferguson that the Provo City Police Department was the only agency he applied to. Earlier this year he got the news he had been waiting for: he was going to become a Provo City police officer.
Despite nationwide civil unrest on the subject of systemic racism and police brutality, Asiata said the reaction from fans, friends and family has been mostly positive.
Nonetheless, a lot of people, he said, were surprised.
Before making the switch from offensive lineman to patrol officer, Asiata said he had many conversations with friends from the NFL, including Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills who used to play on the Dolphins with Asiata.
Stills made nationwide headlines in 2019 for kneeling during the national anthem at games to protest social injustice.
“When I was trying to make the decision on if I should be a police officer, he was one of the guys who said I should be a part of the solution, be another example of a good police officer,” Asiata said. “It would be wrong for me to say there isn’t bad in this profession, just like every other profession there are some bad people who make it worse for everybody who’s out here just trying to do their job.”
As people get to know Asiata, he said he wants people to know that he is back in Utah County to help members of the community.
While he does have tattoos and is “a fairly large human being” — at 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds — he wants people to know they can approach him about anything.
“My job is to serve these people, my job is to protect these people, my job is to make sure that they feel safe and that they feel they can come to us,” he said. “I’m a person just like them, and I just happen to wear a badge. If you don’t feel like you can reach out to a police officer at all, you can come to me.”
Asiata said he would love to start a conversation and let people know that police officers are approachable and that there is a human side to what they do.
The best way people can reach out to him is through the department or via social media, or @AsiataFive4 on Twitter.