LOGAN, Utah – Growing up as a football player in Provo, Utah, the obvious plan of attack is to play for Brigham Young University. However, as two Aggie seniors learned, that isn’t necessarily the best option. Wide receiver Austin Alder and offensive lineman Funaki Asisi have played football together their entire lives. From elementary school through their graduation from Provo High School, the pair have played on the same teams. That didn’t change once they got to the Division I level and both of them made the 125-mile trip up to Utah State.”How many people can honestly say they have played football from elementary school through Division I level together?,” Alder said. “Knowing someone from childhood and being able to lean on them through hard times with family, or school or whatever, I’ve always had him.”Asisi agreed with his teammate.”It’s been a long road. We’ve known each other a long time. None of it was planned or anything; it just kind of happened,” Asisi said.The road to Logan was a bit different for the pair, though. For Asisi, BYU was never really in the mix. “I actually was a fan, probably until I was like five, then we switched over,” Asisi said. “Personally I just wanted to do something different.”Alder’s story was a little bit different. He had been looking to play for the Cougars and was even recruited by them. His best friend, Chris Collinsworth, was going there on a basketball scholarship. In the end though, he decided the security of playing at Utah State was more important and became an Aggie. “And I haven’t looked back,” Alder said. “I love it up here. I love the coaches, the people and Cache County.”Starting college, especially as a student-athlete, is tough. It is a hard transition to make, but one that is always made easier with friends along for the ride. “Having Austin definitely made the transition easier,” Asisi said. “I didn’t have to adapt as much. It wasn’t as big of a change because I had a friend here already. I had someone I could talk to.”For Asisi, the keyword of his time at Utah State has been “adaptable.” From deciding to come here, through coaching changes and rough seasons, being willing to adapt is what has gotten him through. “You always have to keep pushing,” Asisi said. “Accept change, take risks, be open to new ideas and new things that come into your life and be able to adapt to them.”This year’s senior class has had to adapt. There have been major changes every year, particularly among the relatively new coaching staff.”Austin and I and a few of the other seniors have been here longer than any of these coaches. We’ve seen all these changes, and it’s good. It’s been a real good change, and I love it,” Asisi said. Nobody directly blames former coaches for the team’s past problems, but both these players said the changes were necessary and for the better.”You see a difference. My thing was to be able to see the difference from bad to good. Not saying the old coaches were bad, I just feel like these coaches are more adaptable to us,” Asisi said. “They have our best interest in mind.””What I love about Coach Andersen is that for him it’s not all about football,” Alder said. “It’s about developing you as a person, and that’s what this program has helped me do.”The future of the Aggies is in good hands with Coach Andersen, there’s no question there. “The changes Coach Andersen has made have been great. He knows what he’s doing,” Alder said. “I think it’s going to make this program really good for a long time. This year, and in years to come, we’re going to be recognized around the nation.”Accountability, responsibility and hard work are other oft-learned lessons of college football players. Alder and Asisi won’t hesitate to list those among the many things they’ve learned in their time as Aggies.”Football is hard work, and a lot of people don’t understand that,” Alder said. “It’s not just physically demanding, but mentally demanding as well. It’s so much more than the physical part.”While Alder doesn’t know exactly where he’ll end up or what he’ll be doing after graduation, he said the things he’s learned on and off the field will definitely carry over. “Whatever job I end up with, I’m going to give it my all, 100 percent. I can make that organization better because of my work ethic,” he said. “I’ll have responsibility. Responsibility for my family, my wife, everyone around me. Overall, I’ll just be a better person.”Keeping with tradition of doing things together, both Asisi and Alder got married this past summer.”It wasn’t planned; I swear,” Asisi said. “When I’m here, it’s all about the team. I don’t think about home or my wife, Lindsay. But when I’m done here, that’s my retreat. That’s my comfort away from football.”Luckily, Alder doesn’t think that really changed his attitude toward or relationship with his teammates.”I dated Kodie the last two years, so it’s always just been me and her,” he said. “Nothing really changed. I just love hanging out with her.”As the season gets rolling, the biggest thing both players want to do is contribute and give their all. To them that means doing whatever is asked of them and giving it their best effort. “If I have to go play 16 snaps of offense, I’m going to give 100 percent. If I have to go kick the game-winning field goal… just kidding, I don’t play kicker, but you know,” Alder said. “Whatever it is, I’m going to do it.””We want to win. We want a Western Athletic Conference Championship. We want to go to a bowl game,” Asisi said.The five years these two have spent in Logan have been a huge part of their lives and are years they will always remember. Through injuries, changes and developments, they have learned to work through things and never give up. “I kind of just took things as they were thrown at me. I sat back and said ‘Alright, whatever happens, happens,’ and I just did my best to deal with it,” Asisi said. “That’s the way to do it.””It was fun to learn and experience new things every year.” Alder said. “I’ve loved my time at Utah State.”From the early years playing little league ball, to their days at Provo High, to Alder’s first Division I catch at Oregon their redshirt freshman year in 2008, to the hometown bragging rights that came from beating BYU in Logan last year, Alder and Asisi have been in this together. As they head into their final season as a part of the Aggie football team, both are completely committed to the team. While both want to succeed on an individual level, the team comes first. “You have to set goals high, and I just want to be able to achieve them,” Asisi said. “I know we can achieve them.”-USU-
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