SDSU’s Isaiah Stalbird: Paved through perseverance
“I can’t tell you how many guys on our team when they talk about people that have impacted their career here, his name is at the top of the list,” SDSU Head Coach Jimmy Rogers said of Isaiah Stalbird.
As a single mom raising three children in Chicago, Nicole Stalbird wasn’t necessarily prepared to welcome in a fourth child, but by July of 2000, Isaiah was born.
“I knew that even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, that God allowed him to be conceived and so he had a purpose on this Earth,” Isaiah’s mother Nicole Stalbird said.
Soon after the five of them would move west to Nebraska. A few years later when Isaiah was in Kindergarten they would head up to Minneapolis where they would live in a shelter known as Mary’s Place... And as fate would have it...
“The shelter is actually right next to the Twins stadium in Minnesota. So, when we went back and played there in the beginning of the season it was kind of cool, it brought back some memories. It was cool to see how life’s come full circle,” SDSU Senior Linebacker Isaiah Stalbird expressed.
After spending several months in the Twin Cities, Nicole and her kids would move back to the Kearney, Nebraska area where Isaiah would meet the Molhman family...The people that would forever change his life.
“I first met Isaiah when he was five. He was in foster care with a friend of mine,” Kathy Mohlman said.
Over the next several years Isaiah would live off and on between his mother and foster families. He would get involved in boy scouts, and just so happened to be in the same troop as a boy named Dakota.
“We got along pretty well right off the bat. He was always super energetic, wanting to hangout and do stuff constantly,” Dakota Molhman remembered.
A friendship began to form and soon Isaiah would begin attending Kathy’s day care.
“When he was in my day care we had kind of become his second family. If we went out of town for the weekend, a lot of times we would take him with us,” Kathy explained.
“During like my 7th grade year, my mom was in a tough relationship and I kind of wanted an out of that situation. So, I asked if I could move in with them and talked it over with my mom,” Isaiah recalled.
“I was on the fence about it, I could see the benefits of that and with his willingness to want to do that, I just thought okay this is a no brainer, like I want a better path for my son,” Nicole Stalbird said.
“It was the day before 8th grade started, she called me late at night and was just not in a good place and wanted to know if the opportunity was still there for me to take him," Kathy Molhman said. "So, I woke up Dakota and asked him if it would be okay and he was like yea, he needs a home."
Isaiah would participate in several sports throughout high school, with his one real love being football, and by his senior season at Kearney High School, he was thriving on the gridiron. Meanwhile, one of his former high school teammates Noah Urbanek was playing at South Dakota State.
“I don’t know if they had a bye week or something, but he came back to Kearney and we were just talking and everything and Coach Rogers wanted a picture of me and stuff. So, I remember taking a picture of me so he could send it to Rogers to see what I looked like,” Stalbird said with smile.
The Jacks would offer Stalbird, but he would instead choose to walk-on at Nebraska.
“Just a group of older guys there at Nebraska kind of took me under their wing. I know they’ll probably see this video, but I was probably like their annoying little brother. But I appreciate those guys a lot,” Stalbird said.
After spending two years in Lincoln and appearing in all 12 games on special teams in 2019, he would decide to transfer and this time around he would head north to Brookings.
“He called me at work from school and said is there any chance you could get tomorrow off, I need to go to South Dakota,” Kathy Molhman said with a laugh.
He would begin his Jackrabbit career at safety in 2020, before switching to linebacker in 2021, where he’s steadily become one of the most versatile defenders in the FCS.
“With having a guy like Isaiah that has the experience of playing safety we’ve been able to use him as like a flex player and he’s kind of more times used like a safety than he is a true outside linebacker in anybody else’s system,” Rogers stated.
The position switch was a notable change, but a much bigger adjustment was on the way with the birth of his son Kendrixx.
“For me it’s just more motivation to try and make it to the next level so I can just provide for him and hopefully give him a better life than I had,” Stalbird said.
This year Stalbird has been the second leading tackler for the Jacks and has turned himself into a legit NFL prospect in his final season of college football.
“I get emotional because I’m really proud of him. He’s overcome a lot,” Nicole Stalbird expressed.
“He’s very resilient, he’s very goal-driven and he’s just a neat, neat person,” Kathy Molhman remarked.
“I’m always grateful for it,” Isaiah said of his journey. “Even though life’s been crazy, I wouldn’t trade it for anything because that makes us the people we are today.”
Isaiah was officially adopted by Larry and Kathy Molhman in 2020.
The Jackrabbits welcome Villanova into Dana J. Dykhouse on Saturday with a berth in the FCS semifinals on the line.