WATERLOO — Isaac Tolbert hasn’t become a success on the football field by backing down from challenges.
Waterloo West’s new single-game rushing leader reflects on Friday’s record-setting performance against Mason City as a team effort that began up front with his offensive linemen.
“We condition a lot,” said Tolbert, who ran for 343 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries. “It was definitely not that easy, but our line has been working a lot harder on getting to the linebackers. We just worked really hard and we got it done.”
The key moment Friday that revealed Tolbert’s mental and physical fortitude came after his 40-yard run into the end zone was called back due to a hold. On the next play, the Wahawk tailback found a hole and raced 50 yards for an official touchdown.
“I ran to the sideline and I felt like I was about to throw up,” Tolbert admits. “Before the game our coaches told us not to ride the roller coaster. We knew we just had to get it done again. I knew my guys would go hard for me, so I was going to go hard for them.”
Standing 5-foot-6, 165 pounds, Tolbert follows in the footsteps of his father, Lee, who also competed in football at the same height.
“I don’t really see anything as a challenge at my height,” Isaac Tolbert said. “I just use it as an advantage. I work a lot harder since there’s always guys that are bigger than me. I stay in the gym and try to get stronger.
“My dad, he’s always taught me that work ethic and he’s always stayed on me about getting better.”
West head coach Lonnie Moore acknowledges that early in his coaching career he would evaluate players by their size. Athletes like Tolbert have since changed his mind.
“Isaac Tolbert shows it doesn’t mean anything about size,” Moore said. “It’s about heart and dedication and the want.”
West’s football coach points to Tolbert’s strength (one of the strongest athletes in the program), confidence and ability to get teammates to believe in him as keys to the senior tailback’s success. Tolbert entered last season in a back-up role before becoming the featured tailback.
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“I just watched him never go out of bounds,” Moore recalled. “He ran through tackles. He was just really tough and you don’t usually see that with somebody who’s 5-6, whatever he weighs.”
Tolbert finished his junior campaign with 667 yards and six touchdowns at an average of 7.8 yards per carry. He’s already run for 472 yards and five touchdowns on a 13.1 average through West’s two victories to open this season.
Beyond tailback, Tolbert rotates in at cornerback and returns kicks.
“I don’t like to sit in one spot,” Tolbert said. “I like to go in on defense and I like to go in on punt team and I just like to move around. … If I can help the team, I’m going to help the team wherever I can.”
That commitment begins in practice.
“The work ethic he has in practice — especially when he’s not on defense — he’s one of our number one guys who jumps on the scout team and wants to be in there,” Moore related. “If he continues to do those types of things in practice, I think it will help us out in games.”
For Tolbert, his experience as a member of West’s team goes beyond football.
“It’s kind of like a brotherhood, a family,” he said. “We go out there and have a lot of fun every day.”
As for the single-game rushing record, Tolbert feels blessed to accomplish a goal that has been on his list for more than a year.
“It was a really big goal,” Tolbert acknowledged. “I was talking about it last year. When they told me I broke it, I actually kind of teared up.”