The reason Miami Dolphins’ Isaac Asiata will sport pink hair may move you to tears

Utah’s Isaac Asiata, now a Dolphins rookie, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against USC last season in a game he had dedicated to his ‘second mother,’ Shelly Still. Here, Asiata celebrates on the sideline with Still’s son and Isaac’s childhood friend, Travis.

DAVIE — It may happen Sunday, or it might come at another home game, but Isaac Asiata will be the easiest Dolphin to pick out.

He’ll be the one with pink hair.

Teammates might chuckle at first sight — fans, too — neither having any idea that Asiata’s outlandish dye job will have nothing to do with fashion or flamboyance and everything to do with love.

“I was bullied,” Asiata says as he begins to tell the story.

What soon follows is poignant, but you can’t help but stop him right there. Asiata is 6-feet-3 and 341 pounds — big even by professional football players’ standards. Bullied?

“I promise,” he says. “I was a lot smaller than this.”

You take him at his word and let him continue. He talks about how his family often moved in his youngest days, how he never had a friend, but did have enemies.

Isaac Asiata. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Finally, his family settled in Spanish Fork, Utah, and he met a kid down the street named Travis, who was different. Travis became a friend, an inseparable friend. Together, they played sports through Little League, high school, college.

Asiata’s parents were divorced. Over the years, he came to think of himself as part of two families: his own and Travis Still’s.

This is where Travis’ mother, Shelly, comes in.

“Like my second mom,” Asiata says.

When the Still family went on weekend trips — say, camping in Hot Springs, Idaho — Isaac went with them. One Christmas, knowing Isaac’s mp3 player had broken, Shelly gave him a new iPod.

Asiata loaded Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 “Rumours” album onto it. It wasn’t from his generation, but it was her favorite album.

“She always looked out for me, took care of me, fed me,” he says.

If Asiata wasn’t at his house, it was a given he’d be at Travis’ place, along with a few other buddies.

“I don’t know if naturally my mom planned on taking him under her wing a bit, but she was there whenever he had a question,” Travis says.

The pink?

This is where words don’t come so easily for Asiata. When Travis and Isaac were fourth-graders, Shelly was diagnosed with breast cancer. Beat it, too.

Years passed. Everything seemed fine. Then, something told Shelly she needed to get checked.

“They didn’t catch it in time,” Travis said.

On Aug. 7, 2012, Shelly died. She was 51.

When Asiata looks around the Dolphins’ locker room, he sees 52 other men with Herculean strength. When he remembers Shelly, he recalls strength on an entirely different level.

“For me to see somebody go through chemo and to struggle with breast cancer and how sick you can get … ,” he says before catching himself. “But then, I never saw her sick, if that makes sense. She was sick but she never showed it, you know what I mean?”

Every October during breast cancer awareness month, he picks a game to dedicate to her, after asking Travis if he’s comfortable with that.

This is about where the smiles return.

Last year, Asiata chose Utah’s game against USC. Given he’s in as anonymous a position as there is in football, offensive line, what could Asiata possibly do to honor Shelly?

He could score a touchdown.

Third quarter, USC up 24-10. Utah has the ball on the Trojans’ 1-yard line when the running back takes the handoff and plunges up the middle.

Ball squirts out, right into the hands of a USC linebacker in the end zone. Touchback, right?

“I just dove in and grabbed it,” Asiata says. “It was great. And Travis was there on the sideline, too. He came to visit and I was able to share a special moment. I gave him the football.”


‘He pointed up and then came back to me and said, “That was for your mom.” ’ — Travis Still, on Isaac Asiata’s tribute to Still’s late mother after scoring a touchdown last season.


Travis: “His first career touchdown. It was an exciting moment. I was happy for him. He pointed up and then came back to me and said, ‘That was for your mom.’ ”

Final score: Utah 31, USC 27.

“When I think about that game, I would think about how she was a fighter, how strong she was, and that’s what I want to be,” Asiata says. “That’s how I want to play.”

Pink, of course, is the color for breast cancer awareness. Sunday’s game against Tennessee — which includes a “Crucial Catch” campaign and the Dolphins’ multimillion dollar donation to the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center — affords Asiata one of two chances this season to call attention to the disease. The other comes in Week 13, during the My Cause, My Cleats initiative in which players can wear specially designed cleats in support of charities of their choosing.

Asiata was a fifth-round draft pick whom the Dolphins envision as a project, so he has been inactive the first three games. Whether he dresses Sunday could affect whether he gets out the dye Saturday night or waits until later in the season. Either way, a few days after he goes pink, he knows his hair will turn yellow. So be it.

“The first time I ever did it, everybody looked at me like, ‘What the heck is this guy doing?’ ” Asiata says. “It’s a joke, but to me, it’s a personal thing. I didn’t have any problem doing it, because I did it in remembrance of her.”


About Crucial Catch: From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, the Dolphins will conduct a campaign in the east plaza of Hard Rock Stadium with activities to promote early detection and risk reduction of cancer. At halftime, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge VII will present what it is calling the largest single donation an NFL franchise has made to a charity when a check is presented to the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.


Miami Dolphins should play Anthony Fasano more, Julius Thomas less

Miami Dolphins: Why benched Byron Maxwell is helping starter Cordrea Tankersley

Miami Dolphins: Isaac Asiata not yet ready to contribute

Miami Dolphins: Why they say they benched Byron Maxwell

What Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Thursday

Miami Dolphins rookie Charles Harris: I’m a big storm, building slowly

Reader Comments 0

0 comments