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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, November 10, 2000

N F L _F O O T B A L L


Associated Press
Sale Isaia and hi wife, Amy, spend their time
in Hawaii during the off-season

Hawaii will
always be home
to Isaia

The starting right guard
for the Patriots is making a
name for himself in the NFL

By Pat Bigold

It's not a good time to be a New England Patriots offensive lineman.

You don't have to tell that to Sale Isaia, probably the least visible National Football League player with island ties this year.

"It's been a long year," said the 6-foot-5, 320-pound starting right guard for the struggling Patriots (2-7).

Isaia and his wife, the former Amy Apisa, live in Honolulu in the off-season. His wife is the daughter of stunt man Bob Apisa, a standout running back at Farrington High School and Michigan State.

Even though Isaia left the Waianae coast at age 8 when his military father was transferred to Camp Pendleton, Calif., the islands never left Isaia.

His aloha background heightened the chances of a lifetime relationship when Isaia met Amy several years ago in Los Angeles.

The Hawaii-born Isaia, who is of Samoan ancestry, said he idolized Mosi Tatupu.

"I still haven't had a chance to meet him,"said Isaia, referring to the ex-Patriot who coaches at a high school near Foxboro.

"I miss spam musubi like crazy," added Isaia, "and I've missed Rainbow Drive-In since my wife first took me there."

But as the temperatures begin to dip below 40, his focus is on the crisis at Foxboro Stadium. Patriots' quarterbacks have been sacked 34 times. Drew Bledsoe has been dropped 30 times. At this rate, Bledsoe will top last season's career-high 55-sack total.

Bledsoe might not even play this weekend because he jammed his right thumb on the helmet of an onrushing Buffalo linebacker on Sunday.

The whole situation frustrates Isaia, who is an admirer of the Pro Bowl quarterback.

"It's an honor to protect him because he's a great quarterback," said Isaia, who came into the league as a free agent out of UCLA in 1995.

"I consider him one of the greatest to play this game."

But Isaia, starting for the first time in his pro career, knows what's wrong.

He is a member of a line that has been in a state of flux all year. The only lineman who's been at his position since the start of training camp is center Damien Woody.

Head coach Bill Belichick's plan to protect Bledsoe's blind side suffered when the University of Hawaii's Adrian Klemm, the team's top draft pick, was injured last summer and was unable to start at left tackle in his rookie year.

Klemm has just been activated and will play a little. But he will not start this season.

"I think we're beginning to jell," Isaia said of his patchwork line. "We just have to keep our heads straight and stay focused."

After spending most of his career on injured reserve with Cleveland and Baltimore, Isaia signed with the Oakland Raiders in April and was allocated to the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

Released by the Raiders on Aug. 27, he got the call from New England after veteran right guard Todd Rucci was placed on injured reserve.

Isaia said he was thrilled to get a chance to start after an injury-plagued pro career that had never really taken hold. He has started seven of the nine games in which he's played this season; he'd only been in a total of 18 games since he became a pro in 1995.

"I'm so excited for him now," said Amy.

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