Brandon Isaac keeps a picture of his mother on his cell phone’s home screen.
“Every time I turn it on, I see her and I kiss her picture and tell her how much I love her,” he said.
Isaac, a former Blackville-Hilda star, said he would not be where he is today — preparing to help lead his Toronto Argonauts against the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s Grey Cup — had it not been for Sandra Isaac.
“She just knew how passionate I was about football,” he said. “I always think about what a big part of my life she was, and what she allowed me to do.”
Isaac said it was his mother that urged him to continue pursuing his dreams after he went undrafted following an injury riddled career at the University of South Carolina. Considering that, it should come as no surprise that Isaac was out in front of the Argonauts’ cancer awareness campaign this year after losing his mother to the disease on May 6.
“I lost someone very special to me,” Isaac said. “She gave me the opportunity to chase my dreams. Coming from a small town in Blackville, she would not let me get rid of my dreams, go get a regular job. She always encouraged me. She will be forever missed, and I just try to get more awareness out there about the situation. It can be any one of us.
“When she was here, I had talks with her,” he added. “I expressed to her how I felt, and I knew the day would come. She still encouraged me to be the leader I would have always been ... to continue to grow. I don’t have my mother to go to now when I have problems, but she made me a stronger man. She made me more responsible. I appreciate all the hard work she put in for me and my family.”
Isaac’s pro football dreams led him to Canada where he spent his first two seasons with the Stampeders. He followed his defensive coordinator, Chris Jones, from Calgary to Toronto in the offseason and the 6-foot-2, 203-pound linebacker has put together the best year of his career. Heading into Sunday’s game — the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl — Isaac is second on the Argonauts with four sacks and is tied for fourth in tackles (43).
“I played in the scheme, knew a few positions and they knew what type of player I was,” Isaac said. “I’m a very alert, very aggressive player. I love teaching the younger guys, and I love being here.”
The Argonauts (9-9) advanced to the Grey Cup with a 27-20 win over the Montreal Alouettes. They are 2-0 against the Stampeders (12-6) this season, but Isaac said the Calgary offense, featuring quarterback Kevin Glenn (4,220 passing yards), wide receiver Nik Lewis (100 receptions, 1,241 yards and 10 touchdowns) and former Charleston Southern receiver Maurice Price, will be tough to stop.
But Isaac said his emotions will be running high and, in what he said will be his first appearance in a title game at any level, he said he will do all that he can to help bring a title back to Toronto. And he said he has let himself think about what his mother might make of it all — and that brings a smile to his face.
“She would be very proud,” he said. “Right now, she would be a little scared because she didn’t like flying and I would have her on the way to the game. She would be out here Sunday. I know she won’t be in the stands, but she will be looking down here.
“I’m going out to do my best, make plays and let the world know our last name.”