Ikyurav’s journey to Sac State strenuous but fulfilling

Clifton Jones

Sacramento State senior forward Isaac Ikyurav has gone through more change in his life than most will ever have to go through.

Not only did he have to endure seeing his father flee as a political refugee, but also his own journey to a new environment and culture here in the United States.

“I understood the reason why he left the country,” Ikyurav said.  “I learned to adapt not being around my father in Nigeria.”

Growing up in Benue, Nigeria, Ikyurav was fortunate to not be in poverty like so many around him.

“It was an advantage for me because I could just focus on school and soccer instead of worrying about trying to help take care of my family,”  Ikyurav said.

But only eight years ago, Ikyurav was not even thinking about making the journey to the United States. Instead, he was attending a seminary school to become a priest at his biological mother’s request.

Ikyurav’s father and stepmother made the journey back to Nigeria in 1996. When Ikyurav met his stepmother, Trunice Ikyurav, she saw the talent he possessed while he was playing a pickup game of soccer.

“I knew that he was destined not to be a priest but a talented soccer player,” Trunice Ikyurav said.

One thing that his stepmother saw was his determination and humility in pursuing his dreams.

“I work with kids a lot in my career so when I met him, I saw what great heart and hunger he had to do better things in life,” she said. “But he was humble at the same time. He just didn’t know what his true calling was at the time.”

Trunice Ikyurav worked to get her stepson into the United States with a green card, but said it took longer than both were hoping for.

“The process of getting him into the US actually took over four years, so when we did get into Sacramento, Isaac was 19 years old,” she said. “So his ability to play organized soccer at a club soccer level was out of the question.”

Ikyurav went back to Nigeria for a couple of years to attend the American University of Nigeria in Adamawa, Nigeria. However, going back and forth between countries was taking a toll.

When Isaac Ikyurav did come back to Sacramento for vacation during his freshman year at American University, he went to an US College Soccer ID camp at Sac State.

Sac State holds four ID camps a year for players to showcase their skills to coaches. It is an unofficial way for the Sac State coaching staff can see the talent outside the Sacramento area.

There,  men’s soccer head coach Mike Linenberger had his first glimpse of Ikyurav.

“He showed us his explosiveness and his ability to play with the ball,” Linenberger said. “After the camp was done, we talked to him to see if he wanted to play here at Sac State.”

Although given the opportunity to play at Sac State, Isaac Ikyurav had to miss the fall portion of his 2011 season.

Remembering his life adjusting in Nigeria, Isaac Ikyurav had to adjust here at Sac State as well.

“When he first came here it was bit of an adjustment period from playing pickup games to running and playing in a system,” Lineberger said. “It took him a full year to get his conditioning under his belt.”

When Isaac Ikyurav came back to Sacramento to play at Sac State, it was the first time he had to live with his stepmother.

Trunice Ikyurav said that the first couple of months of living with each other was rough between the both of them because of the culture differences.

“It was different for Isaac because he never had to live with his family before, so it was different for him living with an adult for the first time in his life,” Ikyurav said. “We had our differences but once we lived with each other for a while, we became comfortable living with each other.”

Two seasons after his arrival, Isaac Ikyurav is tied for second on the team with one goal and one assist. He and his stepmother will never forget the path he took to get where he is today.

“Isaac’s dad sacrificed a lot when he was younger from being exiled and letting Isaac have a chance to play soccer at Sac State,” Trunice Ikyurav said.

Isaac Ikyurav will look to finish the last six games of his Hornet career on a good note, including the last home game of the season against UC Davis on Nov. 9.