Mizzou women's soccer practice squad player overcomes obstacles

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COLUMBIA - David Isaacks has had an incredible life journey.

"It's like a roller coaster, honestly," Isaacks said. "You'll have highs where you're doing great and your lung function is perfect and then one day you get sick, you're down at the bottom of the barrel feeling like crap."

Isaacks is battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that builds up mucus in his lungs, causing him to have trouble breathing. 

"He was diagnosed at about three and a half months," David's mother Stephanie Isaacks said. "It was pretty shocking and actually kind of devastating because you have that little perfect plan in your mind and all of a sudden one day, it's different."

"When they told us the life expectancy at that time, it was 18 years old," David's father Richard Isaacks said. "I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?' Obviously that's gone up since then, but it was a tough thing for me to take. I was looking forward to playing and having fun with him, and here he was, sick."

David Isaacks takes about 30 pills a day and goes through multiple treatments to help his lungs. The disorder forced him to be very disciplined.

"I've always been a fan of structure, even when I say I'm not, I am," Isaacks said. "I like consistency. I'm definitely a creature of habit."

It didn't only force him to be disciplined though.

"When he was a little baby, and even until he was about probably in elementary school, we had to do a lot of those treatments for him, so that was a challenge," Richard Isaacks said. "I didn't want to do the extra work, didn't want to do the extra little things, so that was a challenge for me. It disciplined us. When he got a little bit older, he had to be disciplined on that, and I probably didn't appreciate it as much at that point and time even when he started taking over. I think I appreciate it a lot more now than I did then."

Stephanie Isaacks said while the constant treatment may have frustrated her son, other people's thoughts on the disease might have also bothered him.

"I think that has been frustrating, but also people's connotation of, 'Oh gosh, you probably can't do this because you have cystic fibrosis,'" Stephanie Isaacks said. "But it's also given him that extra, 'I'm going to prove you wrong, I can do it.' So sometimes, I think it's been a good push for him too."

David Isaacks used that push to excel in the sport he grew to love: soccer.

"Being able to play has been probably the most important aspect of my life," David Isaacks said. "I mean it's a stress reliever, it helps keep me healthy and it's been my one true love throughout my whole life."

"It's been a lot of fun," Richard Isaacks said. "I've seen him since he was a little kid playing in rec soccer and at first, the very first time he ever played, he wasn't very good and he didn't really enjoy it. So we got back into it about a year and a half later and he started playing and he just loved it. You could tell there was something that sparked at that point."

David Isaacks would become the team captain of his high school soccer team at Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, Mo. He earned a soccer scholarship to play at the University of Rhode Island, where he could continue to pursue his dream: playing Major League Soccer.

But it wasn't long before his dream became something else.

"Playing soccer turned into a job, and it wasn't fun anymore because I just lost sight of the fun aspect," David Isaacks said. "All I saw was the training and the workouts and 'When's my next break?' It took a pretty long while, about nine months. This isn't why I wanted to go, this isn't why I started in the first place."

His father noticed how unhappy he was and asked if he was alright.

"I think he was a little bit relieved when I asked him the question and I think I was too because I could tell it was so hard," Richard Isaacks said.

"He just out of the blue asked, 'Are you happy?'," David Isaacks said. "And it caught me off guard, and I was like, no. I'm not really."

So he left Rhode Island to come back home and go to community college before deciding he wanted to attend the University of Missouri. 

"I was looking around, I thought about going to UMKC and Rolla just because they're close and both have engineering programs," David Isaacks said. "But I have tons of friends here and it just kind of worked out."

"I didn't really know what he was going to do, but we were excited to have him closer to home," Stephanie Isaacks said. 

David Isaacks is now playing on the Missouri women's soccer practice squad while majoring in electrical engineering. 

"Being able to come out here and play with the women's team, I mean, it's amazing," David Isaacks said.

He said he wants to always have soccer in his life.

"I think one of my jobs now is to give back to the soccer community," David Isaacks said. "I have so many connections throughout the nation really. I'm going to use them to the best of my ability to help the future players along."

But he's helped two people in particular.

"I'm a better person for watching him," Stephanie Isaacks said. "He inspires me every single day to be better than I am and become a better version of myself because I see what he's been doing and he challenges himself. It forces me to challenge myself too."

"He's incredibly strong," Richard Isaacks said. "Mentally, very very tough. We're just so proud of that, you can't not be. It's amazing to watch him deal with all of these pressures and all of these different things going on and still keep yourself physically fit." 

And while the disease may seem like an obstacle, David Isaacks sees it differently.

"It's probably been a godsend," David Isaacks said. "Not many people would say that about a disease like this. Without it, would I be as determined as I am to do well, or would I be sitting around? It's just one of those things that happens and it happened to me."