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UNI's Weston provides spark for offense
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UNI's Weston provides spark for offense

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CEDAR FALLS – UNI’s Isaiah Weston is a home-run hitter.

Any time he touches the football, he’s a threat to go all the way.

This past spring, Weston shook loose for a 75-yard touchdown against Western Illinois on the game’s first play.

Earlier in his career, the junior wide receiver broke free on a 59-yard pass play against South Dakota.

Weston is looking to contribute more highlight-reel plays for a Northern Iowa team that opens its season Saturday at Iowa State. The Panthers are ranked No. 21 in the FCS and ISU is ranked No. 7 at the NCAA Division I level.

“We definitely need more big plays from the offense,” Weston said. “We have the players and the weapons to do it. We have that capability. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing in the game.”

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Weston, from Albertville, Minnesota, redshirted his first year at UNI in 2016 before turning in a superb freshman season a year later.

He played in all 13 games for UNI in 2017, starting five times at wideout. He caught 22 passes for 380 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

Weston missed the 2018 season with an injury, but came back to have a sensational sophomore season in 2019. He led the Panthers with 1,053 yards receiving and scored 10 touchdowns.

He tied the school record for consecutive games with a touchdown with seven. He earned all-conference and All-American honors.

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Now Weston is looking to go beyond that entering the 2021 campaign.

“I really don’t have specific goals in terms of touchdowns or yards,” he said. “I just want to go out on the field and do whatever I can to help our team win. I need to take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way and make my opportunities when it presents itself.”

Weston played against Iowa State two years ago in Ames when the Panthers fell in triple-overtime. He caught two passes for 48 yards in that game.

“That was a tough one – it obviously was a very close game and we definitely had our chances,” Weston said. “I hope it’s going to be another good game Saturday.

“We have the opportunity to play the No. 7 ranked team in the nation. How exciting is that? We have to be on our ‘A’ game to compete with guys like that. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Weston said fans can expect to see a more explosive and dynamic Northern Iowa offense this fall.

“Offensively, we have to take more chances,” he said. “We were a little bit more conservative last season. We need to take more risks and throw the deep ball to use our weapons more.”

Weston has had a front-row seat during preseason camp with two-year starter Will McElvain battling transfer Theo Day and others for the starting quarterback position.

“It’s been interesting,” Weston said. “We have a huge quarterback room and it’s a shame we can only play one. They’ve been playing very well in practice. It’s been a battle.”

Weston’s goals in football extend beyond the college level. His former UNI teammate and roommate, linebacker Elerson Smith, was a fourth-round draft pick earlier this year by the New York Giants.

“Absolutely, the NFL is one of my biggest goals,” Weston said. “I definitely have aspirations of playing at the next level. I want to hopefully get a shot at playing in the NFL and hopefully it all works out for me.”

Before that, Weston still has work to do before he leaves Cedar Falls. He’s part of a loaded Panther team that enters the season with sky-high expectations.

“This team can go very far,” Weston said. “We went 3-4 in the spring, but we lost those games by a total of 15 points. We return everybody from that team. The defense was phenomenal and they still are phenomenal. It’s up to the offense to step up.”

Craig Sesker is a sports reporter for the Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @Craigsesker. You can reach him via email at Craig.Sesker@WCFCourier.com or via phone at 319-575-2891.

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