UW-Eau Claire football player signs NFL contract

By Mackenzie Amundsen

From the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, to Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, football has played an integral part in Isiah Cage’s life.  The Uni

Cage played offensive tackle for the Blugold football team from 2013 to 2015. © 2015 Blugold Athletics, Chico La Barbera
Cage played offensive tackle for the Blugold football team from 2013 to 2015. © 2015 Blugold Athletics, Chico La Barbera

versity of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior made Blugold history on Saturday night after getting the phone call so many athletes dream of — an invitation to the chance to play professionally.

The 6-foot-5, 335-pound former Blugold offensive tackle signed a three-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts after the 2016 NFL Draft.  According to NFL records, Cage will be the first UW-Eau Claire football player in the NFL since Lee Weigel was drafted as a running back by the Green Bay Packers in 1987.

“I’m a small school kid,” said Cage. “Of course you’re always going to argue that Division 3 athletes are going against marginal competition.  So, they [the NFL] just want to see you dominate that competition and see if you have at least a shot.”

Cage started playing collegiate football in 2012 at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  After one season, he transferred to UW-Eau Claire where he finished his college football career.  It was in 2013 that UW-Eau Claire Former Head Coach Todd Glaser met number 72.

“My first impression was that he was really mature and down to earth as a person,” said Glaser. “And of course he was good at football.”

Glaser mentored Cage throughout three seasons and a strong friendship developed.  The former head coach says there was no surprise when scouts began attending Blugold football games to watch Cage in action.

“I always knew he could make it to the NFL,” said Glaser. “He has a great work ethic and strong leadership.  He also has great athleticism with his size.”

An NFL agent approached Cage after scouting him throughout the 2015 Blugold football season.  Although the team record was 0-10 at the end of the season, the agent saw unique potential in Cage.  He guided the Blugold through rigid training sessions and strict diets to prepare him for the 2016 NFL Draft.

“It’s like an investment for him,” said Cage. “He pays for my workouts and food because he sees the potential in me.”

Isiah Cage and Former Head Football Coach Todd Glaser developed a strong bond as professionals and friends. ©2015 Blugold Athletics, Chico La Barbera
Isiah Cage and Former Head Football Coach Todd Glaser developed a strong bond as professionals and friends. ©2015 Blugold Athletics, Chico La Barbera

In months leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, Cage attended private workouts with various NFL teams from the NFC and the AFC including the Seattle Sehawks, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.  The Indianapolis Colts made contact with his agent multiple times throughout last week.

“From talking to my agent, I had an idea that I was going to get signed,” said Cage.

The Blugold athlete says this week has been surreal.  He spent the NFL Draft with his closest friends at former UW-Eau Claire Football Coach Todd Glaser’s home.  But nothing prepared him for the phone call.

“Everyone was looking at me, waiting for a reaction,” said Cage. “But I didn’t do much or say much because it still hadn’t sunk in.”

Glaser says the opportunity to be with Cage in that moment was a very rewarding experience.

“I’m happy for him,” said Glaser. “He worked hard, and the fruits of his labor really paid off for him.”

Cage has joined dozens of players drafted, signed or invited by the Indianapolis Colts in a rookie training camp that started Thursday and runs through Sunday, May 8. With almost double the size of an active roster, he will have to fight for a position on the playing squad.

“You still have to make the team whether you’re signed or not,” said Cage. “I’m looking to go there to make a statement, make a good impression and go into the program to compete and fight for a spot on the roster.”

Whatever Cage lacks in training, he plans to bring to the field in attitude this weekend.

“My plan is to pretty much bring my A-game and do the best I can,” said Cage.

After the training camp ends on Sunday, Cage will return to Eau Claire to complete his final semester and graduate with the UW-Eau Claire Class of 2016.  Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, he planned to join law enforcement after graduation before deciding to join the NFL.  His return to Eau Claire is not only a personal decision but a mandatory requirement of the NFL.

“You can return the day after you graduate,” said Cage. “The NFL values education and emphasizes that they want their players to graduate.”

He says the support he has received in Eau Claire has been amazing.  The increased media attention has made him a local celebrity.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot more attention now after the Draft when I go out in public,” said Cage. “Usually people just congratulate me and tell me ‘good job.’ For the most part everything’s been pretty positive.”

Cage hopes to carry this positivity with him as he enters the NFL. He says this is his dream that has been a long time coming.

“The NFL is something I’ve always dreamed about since I played backyard football as a kid,” said Cage. “This is the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream.”